SpaceX at Cape Canaveral, Florida is set for its fifth cargo mission this Tuesday, January 6. The Space Exploration Technologies Corporation is ready to send another batch of cargo to International Space Station through an unmanned Dragon capsule. The chance to have feasible weather conditions during the scheduled time is about 60 percent. More than 5,000 pounds of supplies, science experiments and food will ride the Falcon 9 rocket to complete the fifth resupply mission under the Commercial Resupply Services contract of NASA, costing $1.6 billion.
The schedule for this mission was originally late of last month. However, a test-firing of the nine Merlin 1D of Falcon 9 did not meet expectations. Another factor for the postponement was the sun’s angle during year’s end, which was not favorable for launching. The engineers of SpaceX checked on the issues which arose from a test of static fire on the Falcon 9 rocket on December 16. They likewise made sure of proper sun angles for the operational and thermal conditions to the berth of Dragon.
A few days later, SpaceX was then successful in its repeated static fire engine test, where the rocket is held on the pad while the engines are firing for a few seconds. After the first ran, which was too short, they ran the full duration on the second test.
This cargo mission of SpaceX’ EST is 6:18 am at Space Launch Complex X, Air Force Station. NASA’s Barry Wilmore, commander of Expedition 42 will use a robotic arm of 57.7 feet, to reach and capture Dragon. European Space Agency Flight Engineer Samantha Cristoforetti will support him in the operation at the station’s cupola. The launch will have a live stream coverage starting 4:30 am, while the installation of the Dragon to Harmony’s Earth-facing port will start at 8:15 am. The Dragon spacecraft is estimated to arrive at the space station on Thursday.
Had the SpaceX not set for its fifth cargo mission this Tuesday, the next chance will not be until Friday morning. According to the Air Force 45th Space Wing, this launch is the first of 24 from Cape Canaveral for 2015.
From Cape Canaveral, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration also plans to launch the Deep Space Climate Observatory mission on a Falcon 9 rocket on January 29. Air Force and NASA collaborate for the space weather satellite.
On the same day, NASA Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Services Program likewise hopes to launch a significant satellite from California. The mission is the Soil Moisture Active Passive. The $916.5 million SMAP is set to be lifted off from Vandenberg Air Force Base, at 9:20 am Eastern time atop a United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket.
Founded in 2002, SpaceX is the fastest-growing launch service provider in the world. It is designing, manufacturing and launching spacecraft and rockets to revolutionize space technology, the goal of which is to enable people to live on other planets. It is under a $1.6 billion contract with NASA to fly at least 12 cargo resupply missions to ISS. Eventually, SpaceX will launch a manned mission into space.
Dragon was designed to carry astronauts and now is being modified by SpaceX to be crew-ready. Meanwhile, Falcon Heavy is under development. It will be the most powerful rocket in the world.
SpaceX is known for being the only private company ever to return a space probe from low-Earth orbit, its first feat of which was on December 2010. On May 2012, its Dragon spacecraft attached to ISS, returned safely to Earth after exchanging cargo payloads. It is an accomplishment previously done only by governments. Henceforth, Dragon has been on cargo resupply missions to and from the space station for NASA and in line with this is SpaceX being set for its fifth cargo mission this Tuesday.
By Judith Aparri
Photo courtesy of NASA – Flickr License