SpaceX has received approval from NASA to launch its Dragon capsule into orbit on May 19th. Scheduled for 4:55AM ET, NASA Television will be offering live coverage of the send off beginning at 3:30AM ET. The company's attempt to make history as the first privately-funded cargo mission to rendezvous with the International Space Station has seen more than its fair share of delays: the most recent of which came last week after software issues erased any hopes for a May 7th launch. May 22nd has been selected as a backup date in case of further setbacks.
SpaceX — a collaborative venture between PayPal and Tesla Motors co-founder Elon Musk — appears set to proceed now, though the capsule will need to pass a systems check during the mission if it is to dock with the ISS. "The primary objectives for the flight include a flyby of the space station at a distance of approximately 1.5 miles to validate the operation of sensors and flight systems necessary for a safe rendezvous and approach," said SpaceX sokeswoman Kirstin Brost Grantham. "The spacecraft also will demonstrate the ability to abort the rendezvous. Once these capabilities are successfully proven, the Dragon will be cleared to berth with the space station."
Assuming everything goes according to plan, Dragon will be delivering 1,150 pounds of supplies to the ISS crew, and will then be loaded up with an even larger payload for the voyage back home. A successful mission would serve as a milestone in privatized spaceflight as businesses and entrepreneurs attempt to fill the void left by NASA's expired space shuttle program. And if watching on TV isn't quite enough for you, SpaceX is hoping there'll come a day when you'll be able to climb into the capsule yourself.