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SpaceX posts panoramic view inside space station-bound capsule

January 24, 2012|By W.J. Hennigan
  • SpaceX became the first commercial company in history to send a spacecraft into orbit and bring it safely back to Earth in December 2010.
SpaceX became the first commercial company in history to send a spacecraft… (SpaceX / Chris Thompson )

Hawthorne rocket venture Space Exploration Technologies Corp. gave a rare look Tuesday inside its new Dragon space capsule, the same craft that it plans to rendezvous with the International Space Station sometime later this year.

The closely held company, better known as SpaceX, posted an interactive panorama on its website of what it looks like inside the space capsule in its cargo configuration.

SpaceX had planned to send the Dragon capsule into space on Feb. 7 aboard its 18-story Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral, Fla. But the company said this month that more engineering work was needed before it would embark on the historic mission.

SpaceX has yet to announce a new launch date.

“This flight introduces a series of new challenges and new magnitudes of complexity; if even the smallest thing goes wrong, we will be forced to abort the mission,” the company said in an online message. “What is guaranteed, however, is our commitment. There will be challenges along the way, but SpaceX will again make history and become the first private company to send a spacecraft to the space station.”

The mission has been more than a year in the making since SpaceX became the first private company to blast a spacecraft into Earth's orbit and have it return intact in December 2010.

The company wanted to go to the space station less than a year later, but the launch date was pushed back to February, and now it's unclear when the mission will take place.

SpaceX makes the Dragon capsule and Falcon 9 rocket at a sprawling facility in Hawthorne where fuselages for Boeing 747 jumbo jets were once assembled. The hardware is sent by big rig to Cape Canaveral for launches.

The company already has a $1.6-billion contract to haul cargo on 12 flights to the space station for NASA. If the upcoming rendezvous mission is successful, the company would start in earnest to fulfill the contract.

SpaceX also noted the dawning this week of the Year of the Dragon in the Chinese calendar.

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