SpaceX has a Falcon 9 on Cape Canaveral pad 40, the launch vehicle that could end up as the future of US space travel for the next 5+ years. I personally don’t hold out much hope for its long term success… but I hope I’m wrong. SpaceX has received the most funds so far from NASA in relation to the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services, which in short is a program to deliver cargo to the ISS.
The launch is scheduled for sometime in April, possibly the 12th. Supposedly it’s all re-usable, but I’m not clear on how. (Parachutes seem likely.) It’s going to be launching a test version of the Dragon, which is their multipurpose launch capsule. (According to SpaceX that still needs around 3 years to be man-rated.)
So why am I so negative? I’m just not convinced that it’s time for the commercialisation of space. There’s a lot that can (and has; a test a few weeks back was aborted) gone wrong here, and the fact that the usual suspects aren’t part of this is very telling to me.
But NASA have that covered anyway; Orbital Sciences Corporation is due to launch the Taurus II in mid 2011… (The third company, Rocketplane Kistler, is out of the race and probably bankrupt.)
Full disclosure: I’m a Space Shuttle fanboy!