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By Irene Klotz
Posted 2011/10/24 at 4:14 pm EDT

CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida, Oct. 24, 2011 (Reuters) - A prototype passenger spaceship developed by privately owned Space Exploration Technologies arrived in Florida on Sunday for launch on a practice cargo run to the International Space Station, officials said on Monday.

Liftoff of the Dragon capsule aboard the company's Falcon 9 rocket is targeted for as early as December 19, although the final launch date will be set by NASA, which is sponsoring the flight, said Bobby Block, vice president for communications for Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX.

The mission will mark the third flight of SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket and the second for a Dragon capsule, which is designed to fly first cargo and later crew to the space station, among other missions.

With the retirement of the space shuttles this summer, NASA is dependent on partner countries to deliver cargo and to ferry astronauts to the orbital outpost, a $100 billion project of 16 nations that orbits about 225 miles above the planet.
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