SpaceX has confirmed that the maiden launch of their Falcon 9 rocket is a go for sometime later this year and perhaps as early as November 29. The Falcon 9 launch was anticipated this year however what was not anticipated is that on its maiden voyage it would carry the Dragon spacecraft.
SpaceX announced this past Wednesday that the initial test flight will carry the Dragon spacecraft qualification unit which will provide them with valuable aerodynamic and performance data for the Falcon 9 configuration which will be flown on future Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) missions for NASA.
The Falcon 9 will launch from the SpaceX launch pad, SLC-40, at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
The Dragon spacecraft will initially be used to transport cargo to the International Space Station but was designed from the beginning to transport crew as well.
According to SpaceX; “Almost all the necessary launch vehicle and spacecraft systems employed in the cargo version of Dragon will also be employed in the crew version of Dragon. As such, Dragon’s first cargo missions will provide valuable flight data that will be used in preparation for future crewed flight. This allows for a very aggressive development timeline–approximately 3 years from the time funding is provided to go from cargo to crew.”