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SpaceX delays and Virgin Galactic retirement

Posted by lx_lane@yahoo.co.uk on October 8, 2011 at 10:25 AM

There was bad news for SpaceX and Virgin Galactic this week.

Space X delayed

SpaceX's maiden flight to the International Space Station has been put back by at least three weeks to December 19, and may be in 2012.

The Falcon 9 rocket was due to launch the Dragon capsule on November 30, on a second demonstration flight for the NASA COmmercial Orbital Transportation Services contract.

But Russian Soyuz and Progress flights to the ISS have been rescheduled following the loss of a Progress supply rocket in August.

They're now cleared to fly again, but Russia has yet to confirm its launch timetable.

SpaceX told Florida Today it has requested December 19 as the earliest possible launch, but January is more likely.

The COTS Demo 2 flight will conduct orbital manouvres, and hopefully make a close approach to the ISS to test docking navigation equipment installed by the last Space Shuttle flight in July. If successful, the Dragon capsule will be captured by the ISS remote arm and docked to the station.

A successful mission will open the doors to SpaceX's first commercial supply mission to the ISS using the resuable Dragon capsule.

And SpaceX founder Elon Musk's goal is to have Dragon and the Falcon 9 man-rated so he can deliver passengers to the ISS and other orbital locations.

Virgin Galactic has an empty seat

One of Virgin Galactic's paid-up passengers announced that he'd lost patience with the company's flight schedule after more than four years of waiting.

British-born venture capitalist Alan Walton was one of the first to book when Richard Branson lauched his space tourism company in 2004.

But after watching the predicted flight date slipped from 2007 to 2012, the Miami Herald says Walton asked for his money back on his 75th birthday this year.

His $200,000 ticket would have bought a ride to the edge of space, with up to 15 minutes of weightlessness aboard Spaceship Two.

Walton is an adventurer who has trekked to the North Pole, skydived over Mount Everest and climbed Mount Kilimanjaro.

He won't fly with Virgin Galactic, but there are still around 450 passengers signed up to fly when their spaceship is ready.

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