If all goes well on Saturday, SpaceX will launch the very first commercial visit to the International Space Station. Here is how the trip is expected to go.
On May 19, if all goes well, the private spaceflight company SpaceX will launch the first commercial spaceship ever to visit the International Space Station. But the mission will be like no other U.S. flight to the orbiting laboratory.
SpaceX's unmanned Dragon capsule is due to deliver food, supplies and science experiments to the outpost as a test mission for NASA. The space agency awarded the company a $1.6 billion contract for 12 robotic resupply flights to fill the delivery needs left over by the space shuttle fleet's retirement last year.
SpaceX is one of two companies with NASA contracts for robotic cargo delivery flights (Virginia's Orbital Technologies Corp. is the other), but is the first to actually try a launch. And as the first American-built robotic cargo ship ever to visit the space station, there are some unique aspects of this mission NASA is hoping will succeed.
Here's how the robotic mission is expected to play out:
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