NASA, SpaceX ‘Go’ for Tomorrow’s CRS-21 Launch

A prelaunch news conference is held for CRS-21 on Dec. 4, 2020.
NASA and SpaceX conduct a prelaunch news conference on Dec. 4, 2020, at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida ahead of SpaceX’s 21st Commercial Resupply Services (CRS-21) launch. From left are: Kenny Todd, deputy program manager of NASA’s International Space Station Program Office; Kirt Costello, chief scientist of NASA’s International Space Station Program Office; Sarah Walker, director of SpaceX Dragon Mission Management; and Melody Lovin, launch and weather officer for the 45th Space Wing’s U.S. Space Force. Photo credit: NASA/Isaac Watson

Following a prelaunch news conference at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, NASA and SpaceX remain “go” for tomorrow’s launch of SpaceX’s 21st Commercial Resupply Services mission to the International Space Station.

CRS-21 logo“This morning, we did a mission management team meeting, and we had a unanimous go for this launch and docking,” said Kenny Todd, deputy program manager of NASA’s International Space Station Program Office. “We’re excited to get on with it; we’ll see how things play out over the next couple of days, but hopefully by the middle of the week, we’ll have a Dragon on the way, if not already attached (to station).”

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket, with the upgraded cargo Dragon spacecraft atop, stands poised for launch at Kennedy’s Launch Complex 39A, and weather officials are now predicting a 50% chance of favorable weather conditions for liftoff. While that’s a slight increase over previous launch forecasts, a cold front moving across the state of Florida will have teams keeping a close eye on the weather.

“Previously, it looked like that cold front would be passing right during the launch window, but the trend is now our friend – the models are now bringing that cold front through prior to the launch window,” said Melody Lovin, U.S. Space Force launch and weather officer for the 45th Space Wing.

“Because of that, we’re expecting most of the rain associated with the cold front to be pretty much done before the launch window opens up. We’re not exactly sure when the clouds are going to clear out of the way for us. We’re hoping the earlier the cold front will pass, the more clearing we’ll get.”

SpaceX's Cargo Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket stand ready for liftoff for CRS-21.
The upgraded SpaceX Cargo Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket stand ready for liftoff at NASA Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A in Florida after being raised to a vertical position on Dec. 2, 2020, ahead of the company’s 21st Commercial Resupply Services (CRS-21) launch. Liftoff of the Falcon 9 is scheduled for 11:39 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 5. Photo credit: SpaceX

The first mission for SpaceX under NASA’s second Commercial Resupply Services contract, CRS-21 will deliver more than 6,400 pounds of supplies, equipment, and critical materials needed to support a variety of science and research investigations that will occur during Expeditions 64 and 65. With SpaceX’s Crew Dragon carrying a crew of four to the orbiting laboratory last month, the mission will also mark the first time two Dragon spacecraft will be attached to the space station simultaneously.

“It really ushers in a season of continuous Dragon presence for the near future,” said Sarah Walker, director of SpaceX Dragon Mission Management. “We’re excited about all of the missions that we’ll be flying for NASA and the International Space Station program, both cargo and crew, and it’s really just an honor to be a part of that.”

Dragon will spend about one month attached to the orbiting laboratory before autonomously undocking and returning to Earth with 5,200 pounds research and return cargo. The spacecraft is slated to splash down in the Atlantic Ocean upon its arrival.

Liftoff is targeted for 11:39 a.m. EST tomorrow, Dec. 5, with live launch countdown coverage beginning at 11:15 a.m. EST. Follow along here on the blog, NASA TV, or the agency’s website. Learn more about the mission at: https://www.nasa.gov/sites/default/files/atoms/files/spacex_crs-21_mision_overview_high_res_0.pdf

CRS-21 Prelaunch News Conference Set for 4 p.m. Today, Dec. 4

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Cargo Dragon spacecraft stand ready for liftoff for the company's CRS-21 launch.
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, with the upgraded Cargo Dragon spacecraft atop, stands ready for liftoff NASA Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A in Florida after being raised to a vertical position on Dec. 2, 2020, ahead of the company’s 21st Commercial Resupply Services (CRS-21) launch. Liftoff of the Falcon 9 is scheduled for 11:39 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 5. Photo credit: SpaceX

The launch readiness review for SpaceX’s 21st Commercial Resupply Services (CRS-21) mission to the International Space Station has concluded, and the prelaunch news conference is set for 4 p.m. EST today, Dec. 4, from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Watch live on NASA TV or the agency’s website.

Participants include:

  • Kenny Todd, deputy program manager, International Space Station Program Office
  • Kirt Costello, chief scientist, International Space Station Program Office
  • Sarah Walker, director, Dragon Mission Management, SpaceX
  • Melody Lovin, launch weather officer, U.S. Air Force 45th Space Wing

Liftoff of the Falcon 9 rocket and cargo Dragon spacecraft is scheduled for 11:39 a.m. EST tomorrow, Dec. 5, from Kennedy’s Launch Complex 39A. Weather officials with the U.S. Air Force 45th Space Wing are predicting a 50% chance of favorable weather conditions for launch. Primary weather concerns are the cumulus cloud rule and the thick layer cloud rule.

Tune in for SpaceX CRS-21 Prelaunch Events

CRS-20 liftoff
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifts off from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida at 11:50 p.m. EST on March 6, 2020, carrying the uncrewed cargo Dragon spacecraft on its journey to the International Space Station for NASA and SpaceX’s 20th Commercial Resupply Services (CRS-20) mission. Photo credit: NASA/Tony Gray and Tim Terry

Beginning at 1 p.m. EST today, Dec. 4, tune in for the CRS-21 Virtual #NASASocial Science and Station Q&A, airing live on NASA TV and the agency’s website. Following this, later in the afternoon, there will be a prelaunch news conference (this will occur approximately one hour after the conclusion of the launch readiness review.) Participants include:

  • Kenny Todd, deputy program manager, International Space Station Program Office
  • Kirt Costello, chief scientist, International Space Station Program Office
  • Sarah Walker, director, Dragon Mission Management, SpaceX
  • Melody Lovin, launch weather officer, U.S. Air Force 45th Space Wing

CRS-21 logoSpaceX’s 21st Commercial Resupply Services mission to the International Space Station is scheduled for tomorrow, Dec. 5. Liftoff of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and cargo Dragon spacecraft is targeted for 11:39 a.m. EST from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Live launch coverage begins at 11:15 a.m. EST here on the blog, NASA TV, and the agency’s website.

Weather officials with the U.S. Air Force 45th Space Wing are now predicting a 50% chance of favorable weather conditions for liftoff. Primary weather concerns continue to revolve around the cumulus cloud rule and thick cloud layer rule.

Packed inside Dragon are critical science investigations, supplies, and equipment bound for the orbiting laboratory. One item for delivery is the Nanoracks Bishop Airlock – the first commercially owned and operated airlock that, once installed, will provide a variety of capabilities to the space station, such as payload hosting, robotics testing, and satellite deployment.

Learn more about some of the science and payloads on board at: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/news/spacex-21-research-highlights.

NASA, SpaceX on Track for Dec. 5 Cargo Resupply Launch

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Cargo Dragon spacecraft stand ready for liftoff for the company's CRS-21 launch.
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, with the upgraded Cargo Dragon spacecraft atop, stands ready for liftoff at NASA Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A in Florida after being raised to a vertical position on Dec. 2, 2020, ahead of the company’s 21st Commercial Resupply Services (CRS-21) launch. Liftoff of the Falcon 9 is scheduled for 11:39 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 5. Photo credit: SpaceX

NASA and SpaceX are targeting Saturday, Dec. 5, for SpaceX’s 21st Commercial Resupply Services (CRS-21) mission to the International Space Station. Weather officials with the U.S. Air Force 45th Space Wing are predicting a 40% chance of favorable weather conditions for liftoff of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Cargo Dragon spacecraft from Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A in Florida.

Primary weather concerns are the cumulus cloud rule, thick cloud layer rule, and flight through precipitation.

SpaceX's Cargo Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket stand ready for liftoff for CRS-21.
The upgraded SpaceX Cargo Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket stand ready for liftoff at NASA Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A in Florida after being raised to a vertical position on Dec. 2, 2020, ahead of the company’s 21st Commercial Resupply Services (CRS-21) launch. Liftoff of the Falcon 9 is scheduled for 11:39 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 5. Photo credit: SpaceX

CRS-21 is the first mission under the company’s second Commercial Resupply Services contract with NASA and the first flight of the upgraded cargo version of Dragon 2. The mission will deliver supplies, equipment, and critical materials to support dozens of the more than 250 science and research investigations that will occur aboard the orbiting laboratory during Expeditions 64 and 65.

Liftoff of the Falcon 9 is scheduled for 11:39 a.m. EST, and Dragon is slated to autonomously dock at the space station at approximately 11:30 a.m. EST on Sunday, Dec. 6. NASA astronauts and Expedition 64 Flight Engineers Kate Rubins and Victor Glover will monitor docking operations.

Follow live coverage of the CRS-21 mission and prelaunch events here on the blog, NASA TV, and the agency’s website:

  • 1 p.m. EST Friday, Dec. 4 – Virtual #NASASocial Science and Station Q&A
  • TBD Friday, Dec. 4 – Prelaunch news conference from Kennedy with representatives from the International Space Station Program Office, SpaceX, and the U.S. Air Force 45th Space Wing
  • 11:15 a.m. EST Saturday, Dec. 5 – Live launch countdown coverage begins

Learn more about station activities by following @space_station and @ISS_Research on Twitter, as well as the ISS Facebook and ISS Instagram accounts.

SpaceX Falcon 9 and Cargo Dragon Prepare for Rollout

Falcon 9 and Cargo Dragon prepare to roll out to the launch pad for CRS-21.
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Cargo Dragon spacecraft are seen inside the company’s hangar at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Dec. 2, 2020, prior to being rolled out to the launch pad in preparation for the 21st Commercial Resupply Services (CRS-21) launch. Liftoff is scheduled for 11:39 a.m. EST on Saturday, Dec. 5, from Kennedy’s Launch Complex 39A. Photo credit: SpaceX

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, topped with the upgraded version of the Cargo Dragon spacecraft, is seen inside the company’s hangar at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Dec. 2, 2020, prior to being rolled out to the launch pad in preparation for the CRS-21 launch. The rocket and spacecraft are slated to make the short journey to the pad later this afternoon.

The upgraded version of Cargo Dragon for SpaceX's CRS-21 launch.
The upgraded version of SpaceX’s Cargo Dragon spacecraft, Dragon 2, is seen atop the Falcon 9 rocket as they prepare to be rolled to Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A on Dec. 2, 2020, in preparation for the company’s 21st Commercial Resupply Services (CRS-21) launch. Photo credit: SpaceX

The first launch for SpaceX under NASA’s second Commercial Resupply Services contract, CRS-21 is scheduled to lift off from Kennedy’s Launch Complex 39A on Saturday, Dec. 5, at 11:39 a.m. EST. Weather officials with the U.S. Air Force 45th Space Wing predict a 40% chance of favorable weather conditions for liftoff, with primary concerns revolving around flight through precipitation, the cumulus cloud rule, and thick cloud layer rule.

The mission will deliver critical supplies and equipment to the International Space Station. Included in that delivery are materials for a variety of science experiments, including meteorite samples and microbes, 3D engineered heart tissues, and a tool being tested for quick and accurate blood analysis in microgravity.

Learn more about some of this mission’s science and its payloads at: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/news/spacex-21-research-highlights/

NASA to ‘Rock and Roll’ on Crawlerway Ahead of Artemis I Mission

Crawlerway at Kennedy Space Center
Teams at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida are working to ensure the crawlerway is strong enough to withstand the weight and provide stability for the Artemis I mission. Photo credit: NASA/Ben Smegelsky

Before the most powerful rocket in existence can lift off for lunar missions, it must first make the 4.2-mile trek from the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) to the launch pad at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

For the Artemis I mission, the path from the VAB to Launch Complex 39B must be able to support the behemoth Crawler Transporter-2 — as well as the massive weight of the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, the Orion capsule, and the mobile launcher. Teams at Kennedy are working to ensure the crawlerway is strong enough to withstand the weight and provide stability for the Artemis I mission and then some.

“Conditioning the crawlerway is important to prevent a phenomenon we call liquefaction, in which the crawler transporter, the mobile launcher, and the load on it causes the crawlerway to vibrate and shake the soil,” said Robert Schroeder, design manager of the crawlerway conditioning project and engineer at Kennedy. “Essentially, the soil itself will behave like a liquid instead of a solid, which could cause the crawler to tip to one side or the other.”

The crawlerway is currently required to support 25.5 million pounds for the Artemis I mission. However, as essential payloads will be added on future missions, the teams at Kennedy decided to test additional weight so they would be “ahead of the ballgame,” Schroeder said.

Work to prepare the crawlerway began Nov. 23. Over the next few months, technicians will lift several concrete blocks, each weighing over 40,000 pounds, onto the mobile launcher platform used for the space shuttle and Crawler Transporter-2. They will then drive the loaded transporter up and down the path between the VAB and launch pad, with each pass increasingly compacting the soil. By the time the project ends, the crawlerway will have supported more than 26 million pounds.

Artemis I will be the first in a series of increasingly complex missions to the Moon. Under the Artemis program, NASA aims to land the first woman and the next man on the Moon in 2024 and establish sustainable lunar exploration by the end of the decade.

NASA and SpaceX “Go” for Dec. 5 Cargo Resupply Launch

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket awaits liftoff for SpaceX's 20th Commercial Resupply Services Mission in March 2020.
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and cargo Dragon spacecraft stand ready for liftoff at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 40 in Florida on March 6, 2020, for NASA and SpaceX’s 20th Commercial Resupply Services (CRS-20) mission to the International Space Station. Liftoff occurred at 11:50 p.m. EST. Photo credit: NASA/Tony Gray and Tim Terry

NASA and SpaceX managers conducted a Flight Readiness Review (FRR) Monday, Nov. 23, for SpaceX’s 21st Commercial Resupply Services (CRS-21) mission to the International Space Station.

To enable additional time to evaluate flight data from Crew-1 and close out certification work ahead of this first flight of the cargo version of Dragon 2, teams are now proceeding toward a planned liftoff at 11:39 a.m. EST on Saturday, Dec. 5, from Launch Complex 39A at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, with the Dragon spacecraft arriving to autonomously dock at the orbiting laboratory on Sunday, Dec. 6, at approximately 11:30 a.m.

The science to be delivered on this mission includes a study aimed at better understanding the effects of microgravity on cardiac function in human heart tissue, research into how microbes could be used for biomining on asteroids, and a tool being tested for quick and accurate blood analysis in microgravity. The first commercially owned and operated airlock on the space station, the Nanoracks Bishop Airlock, will arrive in the unpressurized trunk of the Dragon spacecraft. Bishop will provide a variety of capabilities to the orbiting laboratory, including CubeSat deployment and support of external payloads.

Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich Satellite in Earth Orbit, Mission Begins to Map Sea Levels

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich satellite launches on Nov. 21, 2020, from Space Launch Complex 4E at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich satellite launches on Nov. 21, 2020, from Space Launch Complex 4E at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Image credit: NASA TV

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, carrying the Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich satellite, launched at 9:17 a.m. PST (12:17 p.m. EST) on Nov. 21, 2020, from Space Launch Complex-4 at Vandenberg Air Force Base (VAFB) in California.

Following launch, the SpaceX Falcon 9 first stage separated and returned to Earth for a vertical landing at VAFB. After arriving in orbit, the Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich satellite separated from the rocket’s second stage and unfolded its twin sets of solar arrays. Ground controllers successfully acquired the satellite’s signal, and initial telemetry reports showed the spacecraft in good health. Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich will now undergo a series of exhaustive checks and calibrations before it starts collecting science data in a few months’ time.

Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich is a U.S.-European collaboration and one of two satellites that compose the Copernicus Sentinel-6/Jason-CS (Continuity of Service) mission.

Agencies participating in this mission include the European Space Agency, the European Commission, the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT), SpaceX, NASA, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The launch was managed by NASA’s Launch Services Program, based at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Read the full launch day wrap-up on NASA’s Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich blog.

Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich Launches on SpaceX Falcon 9

Image credit: NASA TV

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich satellite lifted off from Space Launch Complex-4 at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California at 9:17 a.m. PST (12:17 p.m. EST) on Nov. 21, 2020. Follow along with continuing coverage on NASA’s Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich blog, on NASA TV, and the agency’s website.

SpaceX Falcon 9 Rocket Awaits Liftoff with Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich satellite is vertical at the launch pad.
The protective payload fairing containing the Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich satellite is seen atop the SpaceX Falcon 9 after the rocket was lifted to vertical at Space Launch Complex 4 at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on Nov. 20, 2020. Photo credit: SpaceX

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, with the Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich satellite inside the payload fairing, is lifted to vertical at Space Launch Complex-4 at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on Nov. 20, 2020.

Stay tuned for launch coverage today on the NASA’s Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich blog, on NASA TV, and the agency’s website. Live coverage begins at 8:45 a.m. PST (11:45 a.m. EST). Liftoff of the Falcon 9 rocket is scheduled for today, Nov. 21, at 9:17 a.m. PST (12:17 p.m. EST).