SpaceX has completed integration of the Falcon 9 launcher and Dragon spacecraft at Cape Canaveral, bringing the company a step closer to its much-anticipated, combined COTS demonstration mission for NASA. This image, posted on the company’s Twitter site earlier today, shows the vehicles horizontally mated in the SpaceX hangar at the Cape.
The upcoming NASA COTS mission combines previously scheduled Demonstration 2 and 3 missions into a single flight to test the ability of the SpaceX Falcon 9 launcher and unpiloted Dragon to launch, rendezvous and berth with the International Space Station. The berthing operations will be carried out by two station astronauts trained to grapple the space freighter with the orbital lab’s 58-ft.-long Canadarm2. The Dragon is expected to berth on the mission’s third day. The reusable capsule would depart nearly two weeks later for a descent and recovery in the Pacific Ocean off the California coast. In this photo note the flattened fairing protecting the Dragon’s folded solar arrays which are capable of generating up to 5,000 watts of power — enough to power over 80 standard light bulbs.