In late April, logistics outsourcing is scheduled to head into uncharted territory when a private company ships commercial cargo to the International Space Station. Space Exploration Technologies, known as SpaceX, is slated to launch its Dragon spacecraft on April 30 from Florida's Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The unmanned craft will carry about 1,200 pounds of cargo for use by the astronauts and cosmonauts living on the space station.
The demonstration project is part of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) Commercial Orbital Transportation Services/Commercial Resupply Service program. If the SpaceX mission is successful, NASA says, the Dragon is expected to begin regular supply runs to the space station. The spacecraft can also carry cargo back to Earth, such as materials from research projects conducted in the orbiting laboratory.
NASA is also collaborating with a second commercial transportation provider, Orbital Sciences Corp., which builds and operates satellites and launch vehicles. The company will launch its own spacecraft from Virginia later this spring to demonstrate its ability to provide logistics services to the International Space Station.