SpaceX Dragon Launch Delayed Until Late March

SpaceX’s Falcon 9/Dragon launch to the space station has been delayed from Feb. 7 to no earlier than late March, the company has said. The flight will attempt to berth the first Dragon freighter to the International Space Station. If successful, it will pave the way for the company to begin delivering cargo on a commercial basis.

Meanwhile, Michael Belfiore has posted a report at Popular Mechanics on a visit last week to SpaceX’s headquarters in Hawthorne, Calif. He took a lot of pictures and had a chat with Elon Musk:

When PM paid a visit to SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, Calif., last week, the normally cool-under-fire CEO admitted he and his company have their hands full at the moment. “We are just extremely stressed right now preparing for the docking next month,” he said, “plus developing the new version of Falcon 9 with upgraded performance and reusability.” SpaceX engineers are also working to modify the basic Falcon 9 design for high-altitude launch from what is to be the world’s largest airplane—part of the Stratolaunch project announced by Microsoft billionaire Paul Allen last month.

Cool under fire, huh? Well, about that….Several sources have told PA that Musk is a difficult boss to work for who is not always cool under pressure behind the scenes. The portrait they paint is a marked contrast from Musk’s sunny and smooth public persona. Nobody will speak on the record due to legal constraints and fear of Musk’s wrath. No one wants to get sued like Joseph Fragola, who had to defend himself against a lawsuit for trying to confirm a rumor about problems aboard a Falcon 9 launch.

SpaceX does have a lot on its plate: COTS, CRS, Falcon 9, Falcon Heavy, Grasshopper, Stratolaunch. And, oh yes, that  growing backlog of commercial payloads. I worry they’re trying to do too much too quickly in a business where safety margins are thin and the consequences of failure are catastrophic. Time will tell whether that concern is valid or not.