In a major win for SpaceX, the Southern California firm developing commercial rockets for spaceflight, NASA announced Friday that it has approved the SpaceX mission to dock with the International Space Station on Friday. SpaceX--headed by technology mogul Elon Musk--will launch a demonstration flight on February 7, 2012, according to NASA, using the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft. The mission would be the first ever docking of a commercially developed, private rocket ship with the ISS.
NASA said that the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) demonstration flight will include a series of check-out procedures to test and prove out SpaceX's systems, in advance of a rendezvous with the station. NASA also said that a third demonstration flight is also planned in case that the attachment tests are not successful. NASA is paying SpaceX up to $396M for achieving milestones in its Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program, of which the company has received $376M so far, for completing 36 of 40 milestones.