SpaceX sent a spacecraft to the skies early Friday (June 29th) during a dazzling advance, demonstrating the company's considerable reusability capabilities.
A two-tier SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket illuminated early-morning Florida skies with the company's Dragon Capsule toward the International Space Station (ISS) on a delivery mission to NASA at 5:42 am EDT (0942 GMT) from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. He will arrive at the space station early Monday (2 July).
The launch was the second for the first level of the Dragon and the Falcon 9; The capsule visited the ISS in July 2016 and the booster helped launch the NASA Transit Exoplanet Survey Satellite last April. The 1
SpaceX did not try to land the booster a second time today. The booster is a "Block 4" Falcon 9 variant that expels SpaceX in favor of the recently released "Block 5". So the company handed over the first stage to the ocean. In fact, SpaceX representatives today marked the last flight of a Block 4 Falcon 9.
To date, SpaceX has completed 25 touchdowns in the first phase and thrown back 14 of such landed boosters. These activities are in line with the company's ambitious long-term vision.
"From the beginning SpaceX has specialized in making spaceflight more than a commercial air travel – we want to make [and] affordable and [to do it] safe.] Jessica Jensen, SpaceX Director of Dragon Mission Management, said yesterday (
"This is the key to the future of a civilization where thousands to millions of people explore the stars and live on other planets," she added.
SpaceX also has in December Delivered a duplicate replay in 2017. Sending a used kite to the ISS on a Falcon 9 with a first-flight proven
Lots of science aboard
If all goes according to plan, the dragon will arrive at the orbit lab early Monday morning (2 July). The ISS crew members then start loading 5,900 lbs. (2700 kilograms) of the supplies packed aboard the capsule.
More than half of it – 3,874 pounds. (1,757 kg), to be precise – is scientific equipment, said NASA officials during yesterday's press conference.
An outstanding piece of this research equipment is NASA's Space Space Probe (ECOSTRESS) instrument, which will measure the temperature of vegetation around the earth with an accuracy of only a few tenths of a degree. ECOSTRESS observations will help scientists understand how plants respond to heat stress and drought, NASA officials said. The sharp-eyed instrument will also help to keep track of urban heatwaves, volcanic activity and forest fires.
"We will be able to see a campfire on the beach," said Simon Hook, project manager of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory Pasadena, California, in a statement.
Also on board Dragon is an experiment designed to determine whether microgravity-cultured cells can serve as a model system to assess the effectiveness of certain cancer-treated drugs. Another study aims to develop algae for growth in microgravity. [How SpaceX’s Dragon Space Capsule Works (Infographic)]
"The cultivation of algae offers potential as a carbon dioxide recycling system, which is one of the things we need in our life support systems," said David Brady, NASA Assistant to ISS Press Conference. "And it could also provide crew members on long space travel."
Then there is the Crew Interactive Mobile Companion (CIMON), a joint action of the German Space Agency (DLR) and the Netherlands. based aerospace company Airbus. The almost spherical, 11 lbs. (5 kg) CIMON is an astronaut assistant with artificial intelligence who can see, hear and speak. His main mission aboard the ISS involves the demonstration of "cooperation between humans and intelligent machines in the form of a technology experiment," DLR officials wrote in a description of the project.
A One-Month Stay
Dragon remains with the ISS for a month, which finally returns to ocean jetting on August 2 (and subsequent restoration by ship). Dragon – the only currently deployable ISS cargo ship to survive the fiery journey through the Earth's atmosphere – will be 2,860 lbs. (1,297 kg) of scientific equipment during his return journey, Brady said.
Today's launch launched SpaceX's 15th ISS replenishment mission, known as CRS-15, as part of its multi-billion dollar deal with NASA. ("CRS" stands for "commercial resupply services.")
Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems has a similar deal with NASA; The company ships its cargo with robotic Cygnus spacecraft and United Launch Alliance Atlas V rockets. (NASA has signed this subcontracting agreement with the Virginia company Orbital ATK, which Northrop Grumman recently acquired.)
SpaceX plans to fly second-generation Dragon capsules through the CRS-20 mission, Jensen said. Thereafter, the company will move to its "Dragon 2" spacecraft, the SpaceX variant, designed to make manned flights to and from the ISS with another NASA contract. (Aerospace giant Boeing also holds a commercial crew deal with the space agency.)
But Dragon 2's replenishment flights will still be robots, Jensen said.
"What we're basically going to do is replace seats and consoles for the cargo space," she said.
Editor's note: SpaceX Dragon Cargo Ship is scheduled to arrive at the International Space Station on July 2 at 7:00 am EDT (1100 GMT). You can see his arrival live here, courtesy of NASA TV, beginning at 5:30 pm EDT (0930 GMT).