CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — SpaceX will launch a Dragon spacecraft packed with NASA cargo to the International Space Station today (June 3) and you can watch the resupply mission live online.
A shiny new SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket will take to the skies here from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center at 1:29 p.m. EDT (1729 GMT). The two-stage launcher will blast off from Pad 39 lofting a robotic Dragon cargo capsule carrying more than 7,300 lbs. (3,311 kilograms) of fresh supplies, experiment hardware and other gear for the astronauts aboard the orbiting lab. That includes two new solar arrays for the station’s power grid.
You can watch the launch live on this page and here at Space.com, courtesy of NASA. You can also watch directly via NASA TV or SpaceX’s launch webcast page. NASA’s webcast will begin at 12:30 p.m. EDT (1630 GMT) with live launchpad views followed by launch commentary at 1 p.m. EDT (1700 GMT). SpaceX’s webcast will begin about 15 minutes before liftoff.
Today’s launch attempt could be the first of two different Falcon missions in the next few days as SpaceX is preparing to launch a satellite for Sirius-XM as soon as Sunday (June 6) from a nearby launch pad. That is if the Dragon can get off the ground.
The weather outlook was iffy going into Wednesday’s attempt, with forecasters at the 45th Weather Squadron predicting a 60% chance of favorable conditions for liftoff. The primary concerns being cumulus clouds and flight through precipitation.
There is another opportunity on Friday if the rocket can’t get off the ground; however, the weather report is about the same. Regardless of whether the launch occurs on Thursday or Friday, Dragon will dock with the International Space Station early Saturday (June 5).
The flight, dubbed CRS-22, is the second resupply mission under SpaceX’s second commercial resupply services contract with NASA and the second to use an upgraded Dragon cargo craft. The vessel is the same as SpaceX’s astronaut-toting counterpart, called Crew Dragon, and can carry more cargo than its predecessor.
SpaceX is now one of three commercial partners that will be sending cargo to the space station. (Northrop Grumman and Sierra Nevada are the other two.) Under the first round of CRS contracts awarded in 2008, Northrop (formerly Orbital ATK) and SpaceX delivered more than 93,800 kilograms of cargo to the ISS over 31 missions for approximately $6 billion.
With this second round of contracts, and three providers, NASA will order missions as needed and the total prices paid will depend on the type of mission ordered. The agency said that the maximum potential value of all contracts is $14 billion.
Tucked inside the cargo craft is a bevy of research experiments and crew supplies that will support a host of science investigations that focuses on life sciences, sustainability, medicine, and much more.
One of the primary payloads are two new roll-out solar arrays that will be installed on the station’s exterior to boost its power system. Built by Boeing, the new solar arrays will be installed near the station’s existing arrays to help boost the outpost’s power system.
Target is sponsoring a payload called TICTOC which focuses on the growth of cotton plants as part of an effort to increase sustainability. Every year, 25 million metric tons of cotton are grown, with each kilogram requiring thousands of liters of water.
The Kidney Cell-02 experiment will look at how kidney stones form in space. With the help of tissue chips, researchers are sending kidney cells into space to better understand how kidney stones form. By better understanding their formation, researchers are hopeful they can create better treatments for patients on Earth and even for astronauts on long-duration missions.
Colgate-Palmolive is sending a payload to look at the oral microbiome in space. The investigation will use a device that simulates biofilm growth on an enamel surface by using saliva from healthy patients, patients with cavities, and patients with periodontal disease. This will allow the researchers to identify plaque pathogens and look at what role gravity plays in biofilm formation.
The University of Florida and TechShot are sending 128 squid paralarvae as part of a research investigation called UMAMI (short for “Understanding of Microgravity on Animal-Microbe Interactions“). The experiment, which will run on Dragon on the way to the ISS, will look at symbiotic relationships between animals and microbes, in this case, the Bobtail squid and a bacteria called V. fischeri.
Along with the squid, NASA is sending 2,000 tardigrades or water bears to the ISS to look at how these hardy organisms are able to handle the stresses of microgravity. Tardigrades are a type of organism known as an extremophile and can survive freezing, and even live in the vacuum of space. Researchers are hopeful that these little microorganisms will help identify which genes are responsible for helping the tardigrades be so adaptable.
Today’s launch marks the 17th flight of the year for SpaceX’s workhorse two-stage Falcon 9 rocket. The liftoff is expected to feature a shiny new Falcon 9 first stage, designated B1067. It is the first mission so far in 2021 to use a brand new booster.
That’s because flying previously flown boosters is now commonplace for SpaceX, as the company continues to prove the Falcon 9’s reliability. At an adjacent launch pad, sits one of SpaceX’s veteran rockets, B1061. This particular booster is gearing up for its third launch and landing attempt which is scheduled for no earlier than June 6.
If all goes as planned, that rocket will deliver a broadband satellite into orbit for Sirius-XM. The satellite, called SXM-8, is the second of two satellites that SpaceX has launched for the broadcasting company. The first satellite (SXM-7) experienced an anomaly in orbit following its launch in December. Both satellites were expected to replace older ones in the company’s current constellation.
Following an on-time liftoff, the Falcon 9’s first stage will return to Earth and touch down on the deck of SpaceX’s drone ship “Of Course I Still Love You” approximately nine minutes later. The massive ship is one of two floating platforms that SpaceX uses to catch its rockets.
To date, SpaceX has successfully landed its first-stage boosters 85 times. Of Course I Still Love You is already at the recovery zone waiting for its turn to catch B1067 when it returns to Earth this afternoon.
If all goes as planned, the Dragon will arrive at the station and dock at the Harmony module’s space-facing port approximately 40 hours after it blasts off. NASA will also broadcast that docking, which is scheduled for 5 a.m. EDT (0900 GMT) on Saturday, live online.
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