Falcon 9 launches Dragon with heavy science payload

SANTA FE, N.M. — A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket efficiently launched a Dragon cargo spacecraft Aug. 14 with a various payload of science experiments for the Worldwide House Station.

The Falcon 9 lifted off from Launch Advanced 39A at NASA’s Kennedy House Middle in Florida at 12:31 p.m. Japanese, and deployed the Dragon spacecraft into low Earth orbit 10 minutes later. Neither NASA nor SpaceX reported any points throughout the countdown or liftoff. The Dragon, flying a mission designated SpX-12, will arrive on the ISS early Aug. 16.

The Falcon 9’s first stage additionally made a profitable touchdown at Touchdown Zone 1, a former launch website at Cape Canaveral Air Power Station now utilized by SpaceX for touchdown first levels.

The touchdown was the 14th profitable touchdown in 39 Falcon 9 liftoffs, and the sixth to land again at Cape Canaveral. Whereas landings have develop into more and more routine, SpaceX cautioned previous to this mission that the restoration of the primary levels continues to be considerably experimental.

“We nonetheless will say we try to land,” stated Hans Koenigsmann, vp of construct and flight reliability for SpaceX, at a pre-launch briefing Aug. 13. “It’s nonetheless a maneuver that’s—‘audacious’ I feel is the best phrase.”

The launch was the primary for SpaceX for the reason that July 5 Falcon 9 launch of an Intelsat communications satellite tv for pc from the identical pad, breaking a speedy cadence of launches SpaceX had carried out previous to that. The Japanese Vary, which encompasses Kennedy House Middle and Cape Canaveral Air Power Station, was down for upgrades for a month after the Intelsat launch.

On the pre-launch press briefing, NASA officers stated that that they had one probability to launch this mission earlier than standing down for a number of days. Dan Hartman, deputy supervisor of the ISS program at NASA, stated a deliberate spacewalk by two Russian cosmonauts on Aug. 17 would have coincided with a Dragon arrival on the station if launched Aug. 15. The mission would even have needed to wait till the launch of a NASA communications satellite tv for pc on an Atlas 5, scheduled for Aug. 18.

Heavy science payload

The Dragon is carrying 2,910 kilograms of cargo for the ISS, of which practically 75 % is science investigations and experiment {hardware}. “With the inner and exterior payloads that now we have going up, it units a brand new bar for the quantity of analysis that we’ve been in a position to get on this flight,” Hartman stated.

Hartman stated that emphasis in the direction of scientific investigations is enabled by the big provides of consumables, like meals and water, already on the station. “Our consumable ranges are in actually fine condition,” he stated. “After we can, we attempt to dedicate as a lot as we will to the analysis neighborhood.”

The science investigations on this Dragon mission are very numerous. The biggest single payload is the Cosmic-Ray Energetics and Mass (CREAM) astrophysics experiment, carried in Dragon’s trunk to be mounted in a while the Japanese module Kibo’s exterior platform. The 1,258-kilogram experiment, typically known as ISS-CREAM to distinguish it from its balloon-borne predecessor, is designed to check cosmic rays ranging in cross from hydrogen to iron nuclei.

Different investigations carried on the mission embody one funded by the Michael J. Fox Basis to develop crystals of a protein linked to Parkinson’s Illness, an experiment to develop stem cells that might deal with lung illness, and the most recent in a sequence of rodent analysis experiments.

The Dragon can be carrying a number of satellites for later deployment from the station, together with the U.S. Military’s Kestrel Eye imaging satellite tv for pc and Dellingr, a six-unit cubesat developed by NASA’s Goddard House Flight Middle to carry out house science experiments and carry out expertise demonstrations.

“Each mission we come to, it looks as if the portfolio, the tasks within the pipeline, are getting an increasing number of numerous and an increasing number of fascinating,” stated Ken Shields, director of operations for the Middle for the Development of Science in House (CASIS), the non-profit group that manages the portion of the ISS designated as a U.S. nationwide laboratory, at a pre-launch briefing.

The spacecraft does have some provides for the station’s crew, and a few particular treats as effectively. Hartman stated that NASA took benefit of extra capability within the spacecraft’s freezer to incorporate some ice cream for the station’s six-person crew.

The Dragon is scheduled to remain on the station for a little bit greater than a month, with the precise timing pushed by analysis wants. The Dragon will return with about 1,200 kilograms of experiments and cargo, in accordance with Pete Hasbrook, affiliate program scientist for the ISS program at NASA.

The sturdy efficiency of the ISS usually, which decreased the quantity of consumables on the Dragon flight, additionally led NASA to delay the subsequent cargo mission to the station. On Aug. 11, Orbital ATK introduced that NASA had delayed its subsequent Cygnus mission, designated OA-8, from October to Nov. 10, citing “NASA’s revised ISS visitors planning and cargo wants” in a press release.

Hartman stated that the schedule of ISS actions, together with a sequence of spacewalks deliberate for late October and early November, contributed to the delay. Cargo requirments, he stated, additionally performed a job. “Really, we have been a little bit bit gentle on the OA-8 mission, so with the slip of 1 month we’re in a position to get new cargo that we want as much as the station, on the order of about 400 kilograms,” he stated.

The following Dragon mission to the ISS, SpX-13, is tentatively scheduled for December, Hartman stated. That mission had beforehand been tentatively scheduled for November.

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