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Dragon spacecraft to fly again to ISS in Oct

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View from the International Space Station of the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft as the station's robotic arm moves the space capsule into place for attachment to the station. A NASA photo (May 25, 2012)

WASHINGTON (BNS): Private US space firm SpaceX will conduct the first commercial cargo flight mission to the International Space Station (ISS) in October this year, NASA has announced.

The company's Dragon space capsule, which achieved a landmark feat in May this year by becoming the first private spaceship to rendezvous with the orbital outpost, will again fly to the ISS from Cape Canaveral.

Making the announcement on Aug 23, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said that SpaceX has completed its Space Act Agreement with NASA for Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) and will launch the first of its 12 contracted cargo flights to the space station from Cape Canaveral in October, under NASA's Commercial Resupply Services Programme.

The October mission will be SpaceX's first of 12 contracted cargo flights to ISS as the docking mission in May is considered a trial run.

Under the COTS programme announced in 2006, NASA had awarded two contracts - one to SpaceX and the other to Orbital Sciences Corporation - to design new spacecrafts along with launch rockets that will fly to the ISS.

The contracts included at least 12 missions for SpaceX and eight missions for Orbital Sciences between 2011 and 2015 carrying cargo to the ISS as well as disposal of space station waste.

While SpaceX designed the Dragon capsule and Falcon 9 rocket for the purpose, Orbital Sciences developed the Cygnus spacecraft and Antares rocket to carry out similar missions to the space station.

Orbital is planning to carry out its first test flight under COTS programme later this winter, NASA said.

The Dragon capsule made the world's first private trip to orbit Earth and back in December 2010 aboard the Falcon 9 rocket. The mission established SpaceX as the first private company to launch and recover a spacecraft from orbit.

Following the retirement of its space shuttle fleet in July 2011, NASA is looking at private companies to handle space station supply runs and astronaut rides.

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SpaceX  ISS  Dragon  NASA  
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