Musk Looks to Send Dragon to ISS Next Year; Florida Officials Optimistic of Job Growth

Falcon 9's second stage fires away. (Credit: SpaceX)

A couple of updates in the wake of SpaceX’s Dragon flight:

Company President Elon Musk is looking to fly the Dragon freighter directly to the International Space Station on the next test flight. The current schedule has Dragon rendezvousing with the orbital facility on its second flight, with a docking and cargo delivery occurring on the third mission.The two flights would be combined into one under SpaceX’s plan. Spaceflight Now reports:

I’m optimistic that the next flight will be to the space station,” Musk said, adding there are several things engineers must add to the Dragon to make that possible.

Most of the improvements will be in the craft’s electronics, but SpaceX must also add solar panels and insert more redundancy in the Dragon’s equipment. The flight computer will also receive upgrades before a station flight, according to Musk.

“I feel highly confident we can make it to station on the next flight and do it in approximately the middle of next year,” Musk said.

NASA reserved judgment on the accelerated test strategy until after this week’s mission, but [NASA COTS Manager Alan] Lindenmoyer said the agency will “certainly give it a good consideration.”

Meanwhile, Florida officials were thrilled with the successful flight, saying it boded well for the Space Coast as the space shuttle program winds down next year:

Local space industry leaders joined many others calling SpaceX’s flight a game-changer, saying it should boost confidence that there is a bright future for the Space Coast after the shuttle fleet retires…

Space Florida President Frank DiBello said SpaceX’s success was a significant step in the growth of a commercial industry that eventually would produce far more jobs than NASA.

“It demonstrates once again that this is not something to be taken lightly,” he said of the flight. “They’re going to do things lean and mean, but in the end, what they’re going to enable is all kinds other people to engage in space-based or space-enabled activity.”

The hope is that lower-cost launches will increase the number of launches of payloads and people each year, resulting in more jobs.