NASA to Allow SpaceX to Combine Flights to ISS

Illustration of SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft arriving at the International Space Station. Credit: NASA
Aviation Week
reports that NASA had preliminarily agreed to let SpaceX combine two Dragon test flights to the International Space Station:

With the STS-135 space shuttle supply mission to the International Space Station drawing to a close, agency officials are honing plans for a late November launch of the SpaceX Falcon 9/Dragon on the first U.S. commercial cargo delivery mission to the orbiting science laboratory, NASA ISS program manager Mike Suffredini says.

Agency and company officials reached agreement on planning dates of Nov. 30 for the launch and Dec. 7 for the rendezvous and berthing of the Dragon cargo spacecraft with the station during a July 15 meeting.

The plan depends on how SpaceX intends to manage the deployment of two small satellites during the flight that could pose an impact hazard to the station. “I think we will find a way to sort that out,” Suffredini says.

The strategy combines the second and third Dragon demonstration missions outlined in NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Systems program agreement. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk proposed as much following the company’s Dec. 8 initial demonstration flight.

Jeff Foust posted this update today quoting NASA’s Associate Administrator for Space Operations

Bill Gerstenmaier: NASA technically agreed w/SpaceX to combine C2/C3 flights, but still working some details before formally approving it.