It’s just another historic day for the folks at SpaceX. In the hot, humid skies of Florida this evening, SpaceX will become the first privately owned company to send the same spacecraft on multiple orbital flights.
UPDATE: Launch scrubbed due to weather. SpaceX will give it another go on Saturday (June 3) at 5:07 pm ET.
On September 21, 2014, a Falcon 9 rocket roared to life and began its journey to the International Space Station. Sitting atop it was a Dragon spacecraft (CRS-4) with more than two tons of supplies and gear. The crew aboard the International Space Station grabbed the Dragon and offloaded the gear.
On October 25, 2014, the Dragon spacecraft returned to Earth splashing down in the Pacific Ocean.
SpaceX personnel recovered the capsule and began refurbishing it for a future mission. That future mission is today.
The same Dragon capsule is now part of CRS-11. The 11th resupply mission by SpaceX to the International Space Station. Today’s launch is set for 5:55 pm ET. Weather forecasts give a 70% chance of good conditions at launch. Cloud build-up later this afternoon is the main concern right now.
Check out the live webcast below closer to launch.
If the launch gets scrubbed today, the weather forecast falls to just a 60% chance of good conditions at launch tomorrow.
While SpaceX’s Dragon capsule makes history in the sky, the pad from where it launches is also celebrating a little history. Launch Complex 39 (LC-39A) will celebrate its 100th launch when the Falcon 9 engines ignite this evening.
In 1967, the first flight of the Saturn V rocket carried the unmanned Apollo 4 spacecraft to space marking the first launch from LC-39A. Five years later, another Saturn V rocket launched from the same pad carrying the first humans to land on the Moon.
Almost 6,000 pounds of stuff for living/working in space
The 20-foot high, 12-foot across Dragon capsule is stuffed with nearly 6,000 pounds of supplies and equipment. This equipment will support 250+ science and research experiments being conducted by ISS crew from Expeditions 52 and 53. Let’s take a look at some of the new experiments.
NASA and the ESA are teaming up for the third experiment. Seeds will be placed inside the European Modular Cultivation System (ECMS) where they will be watered and exposed to different conditions of light and gravity. Scientists use this experiment to understand the mechanisms of light and gravity-sensing in plants. The data gathered here could help improve agricultural production on Earth. And more importantly, long-duration spaceflights.
NanoRacks provides the equipment at low-costs to support experiments from students at middle and high schools around the country. NASA uses this to encourage young space fans to chase careers related to space.
Neutron Star Interior Composition Explorer (NICER)
I love it when an acronym comes together. NICER is about the size of a refrigerator and is designed to observe neutron stars. Pulsars (neutron stars that look more like a cosmic lighthouse) will be especially interesting targets for NICER. And it’s not just one telescope packed in the payload. There are 56 of them.
That’s just a few of the new experiments and gear heading to the ISS today.
And it wouldn’t be your average SpaceX launch without another landing attempt. This time, SpaceX is aiming for a landing at the company’s landing pad, dubbed Landing Zone 1. It’s not the primary mission, but it’s the part that gets most of us to tune in. Every other solid ground landing attempt has been a perfect success.
Last time, we were treated to stunning camera angles since we couldn’t watch the deployment of a secret government satellite.
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