SpaceX Dragon cargo freighter scheduled to dock with International Space Station in February, 2012

Sapceflight Now – The next demonstration test-flight for the SpaceX Dragon cargo freighter will link up with the International Space Station, officials have decided, allowing the company to combine the two previously-planned flyby and capture missions into one, launching from Cape Canaveral on February 7.

Artist’s concept of the Dragon spacecraft approaching the International Space Station. Credit: NASA

SpaceX stands to receive up to $396 million under the COTS program. NASA says the company has been paid $376 million for completing 36 out of 40 milestones to date.

After completing the upcoming demonstration flight, SpaceX will begin flying a dozen operational resupply missions to the space station under a separate deal worth $1.6 billion.

The other company NASA has been funding is Orbital Sciences Corp. and its Cygnus spacecraft to be launched aboard Taurus 2 rockets from Wallops Island, Virginia. The company hopes to test-fly its new rocket in early 2012, followed by a single COTS demonstration mission to the station later in the spring.

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