Headlines > News > Brilliant Launch Kicks Off Scientific Cargo Run

Brilliant Launch Kicks Off Scientific Cargo Run

Published by Klaus Schmidt on Sun Sep 21, 2014 2:38 pm via: NASA
Share
More share options
Tools
Tags

An eruption of fire and smoke sent a SpaceX Dragon spacecraft skyward laden with 5,000 pounds of scientific equipment and supplies destined for use by the crew of the International Space Station.

“This launch kicks off a very busy time for the space station,” said NASA’s Sam Scimemi, director of the International Space Station, noting upcoming launches of a Soyuz carrying the next crew of the station and launches of cargo spacecraft within a month.

The SpaceX Falcon 9 carrying a Dragon spacecraft loaded with scientific equipment and cargo launches from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, on Sept. 21, 2014. Image Credit: NASA/Frankie Martin

The SpaceX Falcon 9 carrying a Dragon spacecraft loaded with scientific equipment and cargo launches from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, on Sept. 21, 2014. Image Credit: NASA/Frankie Martin

Lifting off at 1:52:03 a.m. EDT on Sunday, Sept. 21, from Launch Complex-40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon etched a yellow and white arc across the sky as it flew on a path roughly paralleling the East Coast of America. The nine Merlin 1D engines of the first stage shut down as planned about 2 minutes and 41 seconds into flight and the single Merlin engine of the second stage ignited to carry the Dragon the rest of the way into orbit.

Cheers greeted the video from Dragon as the second stage pushed itself away from the orbit-bound spacecraft and a pair of solar array “wings” unfolded to recharge the Dragon’s batteries.

“There’s nothing like a good launch, it’s just fantastic,” said Hans Koenigsman, vice president of Mission Assurance for SpaceX. “From what I can tell, everything went perfectly.”

The launch began a two-day chase of the space station that is to end Tuesday morning when European Space Agency astronaut Alexander Gerst and NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman reach out to the uncrewed Dragon with the station’s robot arm and maneuver the capsule to latch onto a port of the station. The station crew later will unload the equipment and supplies inside the Dragon, including a glovebox-sized habitat holding 20 mice that will be used for microgravity research into bone density.

The Dragon is carrying the elements needed for some 255 scientific investigations the crew members of Expeditions 41 and 42 will conduct. A device called ISS-RapidScat that will measure the winds on the Earth’s ocean made the trip bolted inside the unpressurized trunk of the Dragon. It will be connected to the outside of the Columbus module on the space station to make its observations. The readings are expected to improve weather forecasting and hurricane monitoring.

Along with the mice and RapidScat, the Dragon’s payload includes the first 3D printer taken into space. The experiment is to demonstrate the potential to produce parts in orbit cheaply and on-demand instead of having to wait for them to be made on Earth and shipped into orbit on a cargo craft. The technology could be invaluable for future trips into deep space. The microgravity findings are also expected to refine 3D printing on Earth.

A plant experiment carried into orbit will evaluate the growth and development of Arabidopsis thaliana seedlings in space where they are not effected by wind, their own weight or other forces they would encounter on Earth. The plants are grown inside a canister called BRIC-19, short for Biological Research in Canisters.

This mission was the fourth cargo flight to the station by a Dragon spacecraft, counting the first test flight in May 2012. The Dragon and Orbital Sciences’ Cygnus spacecraft have become regular visitors to the space station as they deliver the supplies and equipment that allow groundbreaking research in a wide array of fields to take place. The Dragon is to leave the station in mid-October for a plunge through Earth’s atmosphere and a landing under parachutes in the Pacific Ocean where it will be recovered.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with a Dragon cargo spacecraft on top launches from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex-40 in Florida at 1:52 a.m. EDT, Sept. 21, 2014. The Dragon is carrying more than 5,000 pounds of supplies, science experiments, and technology demonstrations includes critical materials to support 255 science and research investigations during the station's Expeditions 41 and 42. Image Credit: NASA Television

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with a Dragon cargo spacecraft on top launches from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex-40 in Florida at 1:52 a.m. EDT, Sept. 21, 2014. The Dragon is carrying more than 5,000 pounds of supplies, science experiments, and technology demonstrations includes critical materials to support 255 science and research investigations during the station's Expeditions 41 and 42. Image Credit: NASA Television

The Dragon spacecraft also will transport other biological research, including a new plant study. The Biological Research in Canisters (BRIC) hardware has supported a variety of plant growth experiments aboard the space station. The BRIC-19 investigation will focus on the growth and development in microgravity of Arabidopsis thaliana seedlings, a small flowering plant related to cabbage. Because plant development on Earth is impacted by mechanical forces such as wind or a plant’s own weight, researchers hope to improve understanding of how the growth responses of plants are altered by the absence of these forces when grown in microgravity.

Dragon is scheduled to be grappled at 7:04 a.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 23, by Expedition 41 Flight Engineer Alexander Gerst of the European Space Agency, using the space station’s robotic arm to take hold of the spacecraft. NASA’s Reid Wiseman will support Gerst in a backup position. Dragon is scheduled to depart the space station in mid-October for a splashdown in the Pacific Ocean, west of Baja California, bringing from the space station almost 3,200 pounds of science, hardware and crew supplies.

The space station is a convergence of science, technology and human innovation that demonstrates new technologies and makes research breakthroughs not possible on Earth. NASA recently awarded contracts to SpaceX and The Boeing Company to transport U.S. crews to and from the space station with the goal of certifying those transportation systems in 2017.

No comments
Start the ball rolling by posting a comment on this article!
Leave a reply
You must be logged in to post a comment.
© 2017 The International Space Fellowship, developed by Gabitasoft Interactive. All Rights Reserved.  Privacy Policy | Terms of Use