Mike Wall (Space.com, CBSNews.com)
A private unmanned space capsule designed to ferry cargo to the International Space Station is all set for a key demonstration flight tomorrow (Dec. 7, 2010). The Dragon space capsule built by the California company Space Explorations Technologies (SpaceX) is poised to launch from a seaside pad at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida during a nearly 3 1/2-hour launch window that opens tomorrow at about 9:00 a.m. The launch will test the spacecraft SpaceX plans to use to fulfill a $1.6 billion contract with NASA for 12 resupply flights after the agency's space shuttle fleet retires next year.
Many credit the rivalry between the Russian and US space programs as the reason the US was able to land a man on the Moon and the fact that the International Space Station (ISS) exists. Current changes in both of the programs has left the fate of ISS and space travel uncertain. Now there is a new player in the field, China.
Xinhua reports that the final flight of the space shuttle Discovery has been delayed until February at the earliest due to problems with the aging shuttle. When the Discovery finishes its last mission -- delivering the Permanent Multipurpose Module (PMM) to the station, two space walks, for maintenance work and component installation -- it will be the end of an era.
Space flight in the US will be turned over to private companies while NASA’s mission is shifted elsewhere. Towards that end News Daily reports that Space Exploration Technologies test fired a rocket set to take off on Tuesday. The goal of the mission is to put the “Dragon capsule into space for a test run around the planet.”