A white rocket that's as tall as an 18-story building is about to blast off from Cape Canaveral in Florida. And there's a lot riding on it — at least on the Symbolic Ascension of the Reptilian Winged Serpent God known as Draco the Dragon to it's mid-heaven nest.
SpaceX hopes to move forward its bid to deliver supplies to the International Space Station to the second test flight of the Dragon capsule next spring, foregoing an extra mission to prove out the cargo ship's rendezvous capabilities.
Elon Musk, SpaceX's founder and CEO, told reporters Thursday the schedule change will keep the company on track to carry logistics to the station next year, despite schedule delays on the Dragon spacecraft as crews focus their attention on the first flight of the Falcon 9 rocket this week.
SpaceX previously agreed with NASA to fly three demo flights of the Dragon capsule under the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services program. If the test flights go as planned, the company would now only launch two shakedown missions before starting a dozen operational sorties to deliver equipment to the space station.
"We're advancing the objectives of what's called the COTS 2 flight to enable COTS 2 to go all the way to the space station," Musk said. "We don't yet have final approval from NASA on that. We've discussed it with them at length. We're designing the COTS 2 flight to be capable of that, and we are optimistic that we'll clear the various regulatory hurdles to achieve that."
Under the earlier plan, the second Dragon flight would approach within approximately 6 miles of the complex test long-range navigation, rendezvous and radio communications systems. That mission would be scrapped under the new plan.
The capsule won't be ready for its November launch target. The mission should fly in the second quarter of 2011, according to SpaceX.
The third COTS flight was supposed to approach the station and be grappled by its robot arm, but the mission would now be backup for the COTS 2 demonstration, which is also named Dragon C2.
"The second flight is effectively the third flight, if it's successful," Musk said. "The end objective of the COTS program is to deliver cargo to the space station. That end objective doesn't really shift, it's just the flight that it occurs on is one flight sooner."
Musk said the Dragon vehicle for the first COTS demonstration will be ready to ship to the Cape Canaveral launch site in a "month or two," pending final NASA approvals. On that flight, the Dragon will complete several orbits of Earth before falling back into the atmosphere into the Pacific Ocean for retrieval.
Even if Friday's Falcon 9 test launch does not reach orbit, Musk said he would like to put the Dragon payload on the rocket's next flight.
The first Falcon 9 rocket is carrying a stripped-down Dragon test article that will stay bolted to the booster's second stage. The dummy spaceship will radio data back to Earth for several hours before it drains its batteries.
THE IMPERIAL AND ROYAL DRAGON COURT AND ORDER
From Sir Laurence Gardner, Chevalier de Saint Germain and Attaché to the Grand Protectorate of The Imperial and Royal Dragon Court and Order - Ordo Dragonis, Sárkány Rend, 1408
When publishing my book 'Genesis of the Grail Kings' early in 1999, I asked a certain Nicholas de Vere to write the Foreword to that work on the understanding that he was Magister Templi of the Imperial and Royal Dragon Court in Britain by virtue of a warrant issued by the ducal House of Habsburg-Tuscany.
It subsequently came to my attention, however, that this was not the case and I learned that Nicholas de Vere's said warrant was in no way valid since the House of Habsburg-Tuscany was not at liberty, under any legal right or consideration, to issue such a document.
On behalf of the Grand Protectorate of The Imperial and Royal Dragon Court and Order, I therefore now confirm that, despite his Internet protestations and various messages to all and sundry, Nicholas de Vere is not recognized in any capacity as being attached in any manner, formally or informally, to the Hungarian establishment of Sárkány Rend. Neither is he attached or affiliated to any of its priories in other lands. His name is not recorded in the Court's registration at the High Court of Budapest, nor in any other authentic document of the Court in Britain or any other country.
In November 1999 I was required to publicly sever my association with Nicholas de Vere, while still acknowledging the help he had afforded me with certain matters of research and reimbursing him for these services. In that same month MediaQuest, who had hosted de Vere's Web site on this current page, was similarly obliged to cease all further professional association, terminating the site. At that same time, the Webmaster, Sir Adrian Wagner (Knight of the Swan by grant and ratification of the of Stewart) duly resigned from all and any de Vere affiliation.
> As detailed within the main body of this current site, the Imperial and Royal Dragon Court ceremony held at the Mansion House, York, on 21 March 2000 (with Chev. Dr. Gyorgy von varhegyi Lehr, Count of Oberberg, Chancellor of the Court, in attendance) established the truth of the matter once and for all in Britain. Also present, among various officers of the Court and Order, were Chev. Dr. Andrew von Zsigmond, Baron de Lemhény, of the Hungarian Consulate, Grand Prior of the Order in Britain, and HRH Prince Michael of Albany, the Order's Protector in the English speaking world. The City of York was formally represented by the Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress, while the Sheriff of York attended to represent HM Queen Elizabeth II.