If everything goes smoothly today, the SpaceX Dragon capsule will dock with the International Space Station in two days time. When it does, the space station will tie the record for most vehicles docked on station at once – six. The last time the ISS was this busy was back in 2011. Cygnus, two Soyuz, two Progress and the Dragon will all be attached to the International Space Station this weekend.
At 4:43 pm ET, a Falcon 9 rocket will lift off with the Dragon spacecraft in the skies above Cape Canaveral.
Weather shouldn’t be an issue today with forecasts calling for a 90% chance of launch. There is a 10% chance winds at the surface will be too high for a launch. If today’s launch is scrubbed, SpaceX will give it another go tomorrow at 4:20 pm ET.
Here’s a timeline of the countdown and launch.
Fifth time the charm? SpaceX will give the drone ship landing another go today. Four previous attempts were full of ‘almosts.’ Keep your fingers crossed for success on the fifth try.
SpaceX could have opted to bring the first-stage back to land. But, the company decided they needed the practice. According to Hans Koenigsmann, SpaceX’s vice president of mission assurance, the next two or three missions will have to be drone landings because of their velocity. SpaceX hopes to nail this landing and then build on that success over the next set of flights. A failure would be a bummer, but it would also give SpaceX vital data needed to ultimately succeed.
I’ll be tuning in to see if the first-stage can softly land on ‘Of Course I Still Love You’ (a fitting name for a drone ship).
You can see the timeline of the reentry and landing of the first stage in the image above.
Dragon spacecraft will deliver the BEAM to the ISS
The Dragon spacecraft is carrying nearly 7,000 pounds of critical supplies to the International Space Station. This includes all the essentials needed for the crew including food, science experiments and more.
But one piece of gear is getting a lot of attention. The Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM). It’s exactly what it sounds like. An expandable module. Once installed, the layers of fabric making up BEAM will expand and equalize with the pressure of the ISS.
Mars remains one of NASA’s ultimate goals, and technology like BEAM will help get us there. “When we’re traveling to Mars or beyond, astronauts need habitats that are both durable and easy to transport and to set up,” says NASA.
BEAM is handy because it takes up less room on a rocket, but gives astronauts more living and working space once installed.
The airlock between BEAM and the ISS will be closed nearly the entire time it is installed to the space station. The ISS crew will only open the airlock to gather data. Armed with a bevy of instruments, BEAM will tell engineers how it’s holding up during its time attached to the space station. NASA wants to know what kind of radiation protection it provides, how it holds up to impacts, thermal durability and more.
We all were told we could be the first people to Mars when we were kids. It’s taking a bit longer than we were led to believe, but it’s awesome seeing the technology that will eventually be used being tested.
NASA TV will be hosting live coverage of SpaceX’s resupply mission to the Space Station starting at 3:30 pm ET. SpaceX will be hosting their live stream about 20 minutes before launch. The SpaceX live stream is probably your best bet to see the experimental first-stage landing.