The private spaceflight sector will get another boost in February when SpaceX launches a cargo capsule for the International Space Station, NASA officials announced Friday.
The national space agency will team up with private spaceflight company SpaceX, Space Exploration Technologies based in Hawthorne, Calif., to launch the company's unmanned spacecraft Dragon up to the ISS on Feb. 7.
The partnership is part of NASA's Commercial Orbital Transportation Services program, which uses private companies to get supplies to crew members at the space station.
SpaceX has made incredible progress over the last several months preparing Dragon for its mission to the space station, said William Gerstenmaier, NASA administrator for space operations, in a statement. We look forward to a successful mission, which will open up a new era in commercial cargo delivery for this international orbiting laboratory.
The Dragon's purpose is to create a contact and transport system between the ISS and Earth, officials said.
There is still a significant amount of critical work to be completed before launch, but the teams have a sound plan to complete it and are prepared for unexpected challenges, Gerstenmaier said in a statement.
Private space exploration and travel is expanding since NASA ended its Space Shuttle program in June. The agency started to team up with private sector companies in an effort to continue getting people and space crafts out of the Earth's atmosphere. This includes getting supplies delivered to the ISS.
SpaceX already completed several successful missions including the launch of another Dragon spacecraft in 2010.
The upcoming Dragon mission will test systems for future missions to approach and attach to the ISS. Should it fail, the Dragon can return to Earth and splash into the Pacific Ocean off of the California coast, according to NASA officials.
SpaceX is excited to be the first commercial company in history to berth with the International Space Station, SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell said in a statement. This mission will mark a historic milestone in the future of spaceflight.