Falcon 9 enginesSpaceX has been busy since my visit to company HQ for my recent Popular Mechanics article.

I’ve just received a progress report from the company, including some gorgeous photos of vehicle assembly and testing in progress.

The Falcon 9 launch vehicle is getting ready for its maiden flight from Cape Canaveral some time in the next few months. On board will be a test version of the Dragon capsule that NASA has hired to ferry supplies to the International Space Station beginning in 2010 or 2011.

From the progress report:

Though it will initially be used to transport cargo, the Dragon spacecraft was designed from the beginning to transport crew. Almost all the necessary launch vehicle and spacecraft systems employed in the cargo version of Dragon will also be employed in the crew version of Dragon. As such, Dragon’s first cargo missions will provide valuable flight data that will be used in preparation for future crewed flight. This allows for a very aggressive development timeline—approximately three years from the time funding is provided to go from cargo to crew.

Note the tell-tale window in the upper right of this photo.