Launch details have begun to arrive. According to Zac, KickSat’s launch vehicle has been named, bringing the project that much closer to a specific launch date. Now that KickSat has been slated for takeoff, the project’s timetable can focus around a specific launch window. And it turns out that the rocket that KickSat will be taking to space is quite an interesting one.
KickSat will launch into low Earth orbit onboard SpaceX’s third Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) to the International Space Station (ISS). The ELaNa 5/CRS 3 mission will takeoff from Cape Canaveral Launch Complex 40 in July 2013. The primary mission of CRS 3 is to carry SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft to the ISS for docking and resupply. Five CubeSats, including KickSat, will be along for the ride.
SpaceX made headlines in May when its Dragon C2+ spacecraft, launched using the company’s Falcon 9 rocket, became the first commercial craft to dock with another spacecraft. The Dragon C2+ was the first American spacecraft to dock with the ISS since the close of the shuttle program in 2011, and it is the result of NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program.
COTS was announced in early 2006 when it became apparent that the government would not be able to adequately supply the ISS until 2015 or later. COTS provided funding for private development of launch vehicles, and its cousin program CRS focuses on delivery of resupply materials. Under CRS, companies are legally obligated to fulfill delivery contracts or face liabilities, so the possibility of SpaceX vanishing into the ether is slim.
SpaceX’s first non-demonstration mission, CRS 1, takes off from Cape Canaveral this October, and the follow-up mission CRS 2 launches in December. CRS 3 will act as the fifth in the current series of ELaNa missions; the first three of these missions took place over the course of 2011.