On Tuesday May 15 the ISS managers issued permission for SpaceX Dragon capsule to approach and dock with the station at the beginning of the next week if the planned launch on Saturday morning is successful. A final flight readiness review confirmed that the improvements in the capsule’s software systems are working the right way and that the station and its crew are prepared to welcome the unmanned spacecraft’s arrival.
An optimistic statement was issued on NASA’s Twitter page after the station team finished with the milestone: “Everyone is GO for launch.” In the beginning of the week a NASA manager announced that the agency had “looked at a lot of the changes that have been done on the software and got comfortable that all of those changes were acceptable.” NASA’s project executive for SpaceX Mike Horkachuck added: “We closed a lot of work over the last couple of weeks, there was a lot of software that’s been rechecked and validated by the space station program.” The results of the last milestone, the launch readiness review conducted on Thursday have not yet been announced.
However, it seems that everything is more than ready to achieve an important breakthrough in space exploration this Saturday morning. After the blast off from Cape Canaveral on Saturday 4:55 am, the Falcon rocket will carry the Dragon to the low Earth orbit. On Monday when the vehicle approaches the station, preliminary tests will be conducted to see whether the Dragon can safely approach and back away from the orbital outpost. The berthing itself is scheduled for Tuesday morning.
If everything goes according to the plan, it will be the first time in history that the ISS will be connected to a commercial spaceship. Space experts worldwide are now speculating how much the success of SpaceX is going to change the course of evolution of space exploration. Also watching anxiously the long awaited launch will be students from several American universities who managed to get their scientific payloads aboard.
The following video captures the possible next step: Dragon capsule for human spaceflight.