SpaceX Dragon Ventures to Space Station with NASA Science, Cargo

SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket and cargo Dragon spacecraft lift off from Kennedy Space Center's Launch Complex 39A for the company's 25th resupply services mission to the International Space Station.
The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the Dragon capsule soars upward after lifting off from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on July 14, 2022, on the company’s 25th Commercial Resupply Services mission for the agency to the International Space Station. Liftoff was at 8:44 p.m. EDT. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft – carrying more than 5,800 pounds of critical science, hardware, and crew supplies – is on its way to the International Space Station following a successful launch from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The company’s Falcon 9 rocket lifted off from Launch Complex 39A at 8:44 p.m. EDT, beginning SpaceX’s 25th resupply services mission to the orbiting laboratory.

Dragon is now safely in orbit with its solar arrays deployed and drawing power for the nearly two-day trip to the space station.

“We’re excited to continue to help transport this kind of cargo for NASA and also to carry the crew members who are the key component for doing research and managing things on station,” said Benjamin Reed, senior director of Human Spaceflight Programs at SpaceX. “All of this, of course, is not possible without our partnerships with NASA, with the Space Force, and all of our customers. We can’t thank you enough for the opportunity to be a part of this and be a part of this great science community.”

The Earth Surface Mineral Dust Source Investigation (EMIT) mission instrument (right) sits in the "trunk" that will travel aboard SpaceX's 25th cargo resupply mission – planned for June 7, 2022 – to the International Space Station.
The Earth Surface Mineral Dust Source Investigation (EMIT) mission instrument (right) sits in the “trunk” that will travel aboard SpaceX’s 25th cargo resupply mission to the International Space Station. This image was taken May 3, 2022, at SpaceX’s Dragonland facility in Florida. Photo credit: SpaceX

The spacecraft is scheduled to arrive at the space station on Saturday, July 16. Upon its arrival, Dragon will autonomously dock to the station’s Harmony module while NASA astronauts Jessica Watkins and Bob Hines monitor operations. Live coverage of Dragon’s arrival will air on NASA Television, the NASA app, and the agency’s website  beginning at 10 a.m. EDT. Docking is scheduled for approximately 11:20 a.m.

In addition to delivering station supplies and hardware, Dragon also will deliver multiple science and research investigations. One of those is the Earth Surface Mineral Dust Source Investigation (EMIT). Developed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, EMIT will use imaging spectroscopy technology to measure the mineral composition of dust in Earth’s arid regions to better understand what effects it has on the planet.

The spacecraft also will deliver five CubeSats, or small satellites, with varying focuses of study; an investigation using tissue chips to study the aging of immune cells; and an experiment looking at an alternative for concrete using organic material and on-site materials. These are just a few of the more than 250 investigations that will take place during Expedition 67.

“It’s going to be a very busy next few weeks onboard the International Space Station with all the experiments and cargo that Dragon is bringing up,” said Dina Contella, operations integration manager for NASA’s International Space Station Program. “I just really want to congratulate again the SpaceX and NASA teams on another great launch, and I’m looking forward to the Dragon docking on Saturday.”

Dragon will spend about a month attached to the space station before autonomously undocking and returning to Earth with research and return cargo, splashing down in the Atlantic Ocean.

To stay updated on all station activities, follow @space_station and @ISS_Research on Twitter, as well as the ISS Facebook and ISS Instagram accounts. Or follow along the station blog at: https://blogs.nasa.gov/spacestation/.

Live Countdown Coverage Begins for SpaceX’s 25th Cargo Resupply Launch

SpaceX's cargo Dragon spacecraft at Kennedy Space Center's Launch Complex 39A.
Seen here is a close view of the SpaceX Cargo Dragon spacecraft atop the company’s Falcon 9 rocket after being raised to a vertical position at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on July 12, 2022, in preparation for the 25th commercial resupply services launch to the International Space Station. Photo credit: SpaceX

Hello from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida! A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, with the cargo Dragon spacecraft atop, stands ready for liftoff at Kennedy’s Launch Complex 39A. Live countdown coverage has begun – watch now on NASA Television, the NASA app, and the agency’s website.

Liftoff is just a little under 30 minutes away, at 8:44 p.m. EDT. This is the 25th commercial resupply services (CRS-25) mission for SpaceX, delivering more than 5,800 pounds of science experiments and research, hardware, and crew supplies to the International Space Station.

About 12 minutes after launch, Dragon will separate from the Falcon 9 rocket’s second stage, beginning a series of carefully choreographed thruster firings to reach the space station two days later.

Here’s a look at some of tonight’s countdown and ascent milestones. All times are approximate.

COUNTDOWN 

Hr/Min/Sec        Event
– 00:38:00             SpaceX Launch Director verifies go for propellant load
– 00:35:00             RP-1 (rocket grade kerosene) loading begins
– 00:35:00             1st stage LOX (liquid oxygen) loading begins
– 00:16:00             2nd stage LOX loading begins
– 00:07:00             Falcon 9 begins pre-launch engine chill
– 00:05:00             Dragon transitions to internal power
– 00:01:00             Command flight computer to begin final prelaunch checks
– 00:01:00             Propellant tanks pressurize for flight
– 00:00:45             SpaceX Launch Director verifies go for launch
– 00:00:03             Engine controller commands engine ignition sequence to start
– 00:00:00             Falcon 9 liftoff

LAUNCH, LANDING, AND DRAGON DEPLOYMENT

Hr/Min/Sec        Event
00:01:18               Max Q (moment of peak mechanical stress on the rocket)
00:02:30               1st stage main engine cutoff (MECO)
00:02:34               1st and 2nd stages separate
00:02:41               2nd stage engine starts
00:06:37               1st stage entry burn begins
00:08:38               2nd stage engine cutoff (SECO)
00:08:38               1st stage landing
00:11:49               Dragon separates from 2nd stage
00:12:35               Dragon nosecone open sequence begins

 

Launch Day Arrives for SpaceX’s 25th Resupply Services Mission

SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket and cargo Dragon spacecraft and Kennedy Space Center's Launch Complex 39A ahead of the company's 25th commercial resupply services launch.
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, with the company’s Cargo Dragon spacecraft atop, is raised to a vertical position at NASA Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A on July 12, 2022, in preparation for the 25th commercial resupply services launch to the International Space Station. Photo credit: SpaceX

NASA and SpaceX are targeting 8:44 p.m. EDT today, July 14, for SpaceX’s 25th commercial resupply (CRS-25) launch to the International Space Station. The company’s Falcon 9 rocket and cargo Dragon spacecraft will lift off from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Weather officials with Cape Canaveral Space Force Station’s 45th Weather Squadron continue to predict a 70% chance of favorable weather conditions for today’s launch, with the primary concerns revolving around the cumulus cloud rule and flight through precipitation.

Dragon will carry more than 5,800 pounds of cargo, including a variety of NASA investigations such as NASA’s Earth Surface Mineral Dust Source Investigation (EMIT), which will identify the composition of mineral dust from Earth’s arid regions and analyze dust carried through the atmosphere from deserts to see what effects it has on the planet, further advancing NASA’s data contributions to monitoring climate change.

Other investigations include studying the aging of immune cells and the potential to reverse those effects during postflight recovery, a CubeSat that will monitor cloud top and ocean surface temperatures which could help scientists understand Earth’s climate and weather systems, and a student experiment testing a concrete alternative for potential use in future lunar and Martian habitats.

Beginning at 8:15 p.m. EDT, join us on the CRS-25 mission blog for live coverage, and follow along on NASA Television, the NASA app, and the agency’s website for the live launch broadcast.

Psyche Mission Update

This illustration, updated in April 2022, depicts NASA’s Psyche spacecraft. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU

NASA’s Psyche mission team continues to assess ongoing issues with the spacecraft’s flight software. The team is evaluating its ability to meet a schedule to launch in 2022 – the current launch period is Sept. 20 to Oct. 11. If it is determined that launch in 2022 is not possible, a full range of actions for how to proceed will be considered.

NASA Updates Astronaut Assignments for Boeing Starliner Test Flight

United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket with Boeing's CST-100 Starliner
NASA astronauts Suni Williams, left, Barry “Butch” Wilmore, center, and Mike Fincke, right, watch as a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket with Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft aboard is rolled out of the Vertical Integration Facility to the launch pad at Space Launch Complex 41 Wednesday, May 18, 2022, at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida, ahead of the Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2) mission. Photo credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky

NASA will fly two astronaut test pilots aboard the agency’s Boeing Crew Flight Test (CFT) mission to the International Space Station, where they will live and work off the Earth for about two weeks.

CFT commander Barry “Butch” Wilmore, whom NASA assigned to the prime crew in October 2020, will join NASA astronaut Suni Williams, who will serve as pilot. Williams previously served as the backup test pilot for CFT while assigned as commander of NASA’s Boeing Starliner-1 mission, Starliner’s first post-certification mission. As CFT pilot, Williams takes the place of NASA astronaut Nicole Mann, originally assigned to the mission in 2018. NASA reassigned Mann to the agency’s SpaceX Crew-5 mission in 2021.

NASA astronaut Mike Fincke, whom the agency previously assigned as the Joint Operations Commander for CFT, will now train as the backup spacecraft test pilot and remains eligible for assignment to a future mission. Fincke’s unique expertise will continue to benefit the team as he retains his position as flight test lead, filling a vital role in Starliner certification.

Click here to read the complete release.

TROPICS Mission Update

After a nominal first stage flight, the upper stage of the rocket shut down early and failed to deliver the TROPICS CubeSats to orbit.

NASA’s Launch Services Program, who managed the launch service for the mission, continues to work with emerging launch providers to deliver low-cost science missions into orbit through contracts that align with commercial practices, using less NASA oversight to achieve lower launch costs.

Small satellites and Class D payloads tolerate relatively high risk and serve as an ideal platform for technical and architecture innovation, contributing to NASA’s science research and technology development. The program offers opportunity for industry developing new launch capabilities.

 

Liftoff!

Two TROPICS CubeSats have lifted off atop an Astra Rocket 3 from Space Launch Complex 46 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida today, June 12, 2022. Launch occurred at approximately 1:43 p.m. EDT.

New T-0 Time Established for Today’s TROPICS Launch

Astra has completed final liquid oxygen conditioning and resumed countdown for the launch of its Rocket 3, carrying two of NASA’s TROPICS CubeSats. Liftoff currently is scheduled for today at 1:43 p.m. EDT.

 

Launch Countdown Paused

Astra has paused the countdown of the launch of its Rocket 3, carrying two of NASA’s TROPICS CubeSats, to complete final liquid oxygen conditioning on the vehicle. Upon completion, the team will set a new launch time for TROPICS-1.

Mission Facts About TROPICS

TROP:ICS constellation of CubeSats
Three pairs of satellites comprise the TROPICS constellation and will work in concert to provide microwave observations of storms on Earth, measuring precipitation, temperature, and humidity of a storm as often as every 50 minutes. Image Credit: NASA

Each TROPICS satellite is identical – a 3U CubeSat about the size of a loaf of bread and weighing about 12 lbs.

 

The TROPICS CubeSat payload is a spinning microwave radiometer with highly integrated, compact microwave receiver electronics.

 

TROPICS satellite measures microwave frequencies ranging from about 90 to 205 gigahertz, which can monitor the atmospheric emissions made by water vapor, oxygen, and clouds in the atmosphere.

 

TROPICS target altitude is 550 kilometers, and pairs of CubeSats will have three slightly different low-Earth orbits, all at an angle about 30 degrees above the equator.

 

The TROPICS Pathfinder satellite, a proof-of-concept CubeSat that launched in June of 2021, has captured images of several tropical cyclones, such as Hurricane Ida over the United States, Cyclone Batsirai over Madagascar, and Super Typhoon Mindulle over eastern Japan. The pathfinder satellite has also provided the TROPICS research team an opportunity to fine tune the satellites’ software and operational procedures before the constellation launches. In addition, the pathfinder has already been calibrated and will be able to serve as a calibration reference for the rest of the TROPICS constellation satellites. The TROPICS pathfinder helps the TROPICS CubeSats start producing useful data quickly. 

 

Astra’s Rocket 3 is an expendable, vertically-launched two stage rocket that uses liquid oxygen and kerosene as propellants. It has an overall length of 43 feet and is 52 inches in diameter. Astra designed it to fit inside a standard shipping container. Rocket 3 has five engines on its first stage, and one engine on its second stage.

 

TROPICS is an Earth venture instrument mission – science-driven, competitively selected, low-cost missions that provide opportunity for investment in innovative Earth science to enhance our capability to better understand the current state of the Earth system and to enable continual improvement in the prediction of future changes.

 

The TROPICS team is led by Principal Investigator Dr. William Blackwell at Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) Lincoln Laboratory in Lexington and includes researchers from NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and several universities and commercial partners.

 

NASA’s Launch Services Program at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida manages the launch service.