Liftoff: SpaceX Dragon en Route to Space Station

SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft lift off from Space Launch Complex 40 at Florida's Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on the company's 18th commercial resupply services mission to the International Space Station.
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft lift off from Space Launch Complex 40 at Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on July 25, 2019. Image credit: NASA TV

At 6:01 p.m. EDT on July 25, 2019, SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket launched from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida carrying the uncrewed Dragon spacecraft on the company’s 18th Commercial Resupply Services (CRS-18) mission.

Due to arrive at the International Space Station on July 27, the Dragon spacecraft contains multiple supplies, equipment and material critical for supporting science and research investigations at the space station.

CRS-18 Launch Scrubbed Due to Weather

The launch of SpaceX’s 18th Commercial Resupply Services mission to the International Space Station – scheduled for this evening – has scrubbed due to unfavorable weather conditions.

Launch is now scheduled for Thursday, July 25, at 6:01 p.m. EDT. Launch coverage will begin at 5:45 p.m. on NASA TV and the agency’s website. A launch on Thursday would result in the Dragon spacecraft arriving to the space station Saturday, July 27.

SpaceX CRS-18: Launch Countdown Milestones for July 24 Liftoff

The launch of SpaceX’s 18th commercial resupply services mission to the International Space Station for NASA is scheduled for 6:24 p.m. EDT with an instantaneous launch window. The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft have been moved to the vertical launch position. Launch coverage will begin at 6 p.m. on NASA Television and the agency’s launch blog.

Meteorologists with the U.S. Air Force 45th Space Wing continue to predict a 30% chance of favorable weather for liftoff. The primary weather concerns are the cumulus cloud rule, lightning rule and attached anvil rule.

Packed with more than 5,000 pounds of research, crew supplies and hardware, the Dragon spacecraft will launch on a Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

Mission Timeline (all times approximate)
COUNTDOWN
– 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
– 00:07:58     Dragon transitions to internal power
– 00:07:00     Falcon 9 begins pre-launch engine chill
– 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

SpaceX CRS-18 Launch Now Targeted for Wednesday, July 24

NASA and SpaceX now are targeting 6:24 p.m. EDT on Wednesday, July 24, for the company’s 18th cargo resupply mission to the International Space Station. The Dragon spacecraft will launch from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, and arrive at the space station on Friday, July 26, filled with about 5,500 pounds of science, cargo and crew supplies for the microgravity laboratory.

SpaceX’s Cargo Dragon to Deliver New Space Station Docking Adapter for Commercial Crew Spacecraft

The International Docking Adapter 3, a critical component for future crewed missions to the International Space Station, is carefully packed away in the unpressurized "trunk" section of the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft at the SpaceX facility on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on June 19.
The International Docking Adapter 3, a critical component for future crewed missions to the International Space Station, is carefully packed away in the unpressurized “trunk” section of the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft at the SpaceX facility on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on June 19. Photo credit: NASA/Isaac Watson

A new International Docking Adapter, called IDA-3, is scheduled to arrive at the International Space Station this July aboard SpaceX’s 18th cargo resupply mission to the microgravity laboratory. When installed on the space station, the one-of-a-kind outpost will have two common ports enabling expanded opportunities for visiting vehicles, including new spacecraft designed to carry humans for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

The docking adapters are the physical connections spacecraft like Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner, SpaceX’s Crew Dragon and future, yet-to-be designed international spacecraft will use to autonomously attach to station. The adapters are important because the plans are readily available for spacecraft builders and standardize a host of docking requirements.

The International Docking Adapter 3, a critical component for future crewed missions to the International Space Station, is carefully packed away in the unpressurized "trunk" section of the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft at the SpaceX facility on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on June 19.
The International Docking Adapter 3, a critical component for future crewed missions to the International Space Station, is carefully packed away in the unpressurized “trunk” section of the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft at the SpaceX facility on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on June 19. Photo credit: NASA/Cory Huston

Currently stowed in the trunk of SpaceX’s Dragon cargo spacecraft, the IDA-3 was assembled at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, and comprises of a number of sensors that spacecraft will communicate with and connect to through use of onboard computers and navigation systems.  Docking requires no crew assistance and can be completed much more quickly than the berthing process often used for cargo spacecraft today, which may involve astronauts aboard the station manually capturing spacecraft using a robotic arm then maneuvering the craft to attach to a common hatch mechanism.

IDA-3 is one of the primary payloads on the SpaceX resupply mission and is identical to the International Docking Adapter-2, IDA-2, installed in the summer of 2016. IDA-2 was used by SpaceX during the company’s first uncrewed flight test, called Demo-1, for commercial crew. Both docking adapters were built by Boeing.

Once at the space station, flight controllers will use the station’s Canadarm2 robotic arm to remove the IDA-3 from Dragon’s trunk and place it over a Pressurized Mating Adapter (PMA-3) on the station’s Harmony module, or Node 2. Later this summer, two Expedition 60 crew members will perform a spacewalk to permanently install the IDA-3 to PMA-3.

The SpaceX CRS-18 mission is scheduled to launch at 7:35 p.m. EDT on Sunday, July 21, from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. After its arrival, the Dragon cargo spacecraft will remain at the space station for about a month.

Students Show off Plant Research at Symposium in Miami

Trent Smith, left, and Gioia Massa give a talk on Veggie at the Student Research Symposium in Miami on April 27, 2019. Photo credit: NASA/Dinah Dimapilis
Trent Smith, left, and Gioia Massa give a talk on Veggie at the Student Research Symposium in Miami on April 27, 2019. Photo credit: NASA/Dinah Dimapilis

By Rachel Cox
NASA’s Kennedy Space Center

Students from around the country convened with NASA scientists in Miami for the Student Research Symposium on April 27 as part of the Growing Beyond Earth program, a partnership between NASA and the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden.

Growing Beyond Earth is an educational outreach and citizen science program that reaches over 170 middle and high schools from Florida, Colorado and Puerto Rico. NASA’s Kennedy Space Center plant production scientists Gioia Massa and Trent Smith train teachers, who then receive plant growth chambers that mimic Veggie, the space garden residing on the International Space Station.

Students and teachers listen to Ray Wheeler discuss the history of plant research for space. Photo credit: NASA/Dinah Dimapilis
Students and teachers listen to Ray Wheeler discuss the history of plant research for space. Photo credit: NASA/Dinah Dimapilis

In the fall, students set up their plant growth chambers and conduct experiments designed by Fairchild in conjunction with Kennedy.

“Every year, it’s something different,” Massa explained. “Last year, they were looking at photoperiod, how plants respond to different durations of light. This year, they’re looking at the neighbor effect, how different plants influence each other by growing next to each other.”

Since the beginning of the program, students have tested approximately 130 plant varieties under different conditions. Some schools are in high humidity areas, like Puerto Rico, while others have low humidity, like Colorado. Sometimes students overwater their plants; other times they forget. Sometimes the power goes out over the weekend. Plants that do well across these different environments make good candidates for space.

Both middle and high schools participate in new crop testing. But after getting a good grasp on the system in the fall, high school students can take it a step further and design independent experiments in the spring. These projects were the focus of the Miami symposium; 34 high schools presented their independent research, plus 17 middle schools presented their work on new crop testing.

“We had the students testing some really creative things,” Massa said. One project looked at using nitrogen-fixing bacteria in the substrate. Another 3D printed different containers.

The students created scientific posters, just like a NASA scientist would for a conference, with sections for the abstract, introduction, materials, results, conclusion and references. Fairchild printed out the posters, and the students presented them. Then Massa and her colleagues judged them on their poster, the quality of their project and presentation, the significance to NASA and how well they understood it.

Twelve Kennedy employees supported the event, including Bryan Onate, chief of the Life Sciences and Utilization Division, and Josie Burnett, director of Exploration Research and Technology Programs, along with plant production scientists and interns. Massa, Smith and Ray Wheeler gave talks to the students about Veggie and plant space research.

SpaceX Falcon 9, Dragon Launch on Resupply Mission to International Space Station

Liftoff of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft on the company's 17th mission to deliver cargo and supplies to the International Space Station
Image credit: NASA TV

Dragon successfully launched on the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket at 2:48 a.m. EDT from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, carrying more than 5,500 pounds of research, hardware, and supplies to the International Space Station.

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 CRS-17 Launch Updates

SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon capsule await liftoff on CRS-17
Image credit: NASA TV

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft stand ready for a second launch attempt today on the company’s 17th commercial resupply mission to the International Space Station.

Liftoff is targeted for 2:48 a.m. EDT from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, with an instantaneous launch window. Join us on NASA’s launch blog and on NASA Television beginning at 2:30 a.m. for updates from the countdown.

NASA on the Air

Ham radio operator Choke E29AHU from Thailand shared this photo on Twitter of his 2-year-old daughter participating in the event. Photo credit: Twitter user @chokelive
Ham radio operator Choke E29AHU from Thailand shared this photo on Twitter of his 2-year-old daughter Porjai participating in the event. Photo credit: Chokeumnuay Khowsakool

By Rachel Cox
NASA’s Kennedy Space Center

In a surprising and touching turnout, tens of thousands of people around the world turned on their ham (or amateur) radios to participate in several “NASA on the Air” events held over the past year.

“This was a beautiful thing,” said Kevin Zari, head of the amateur radio club at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. Zari especially loved the event photos tweeted by people from different countries.

Radio clubs from 10 NASA centers and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, all supported the yearlong event. Ham radio operators tuned in from all 50 U.S. states and 56 countries across six continents to chat with NASA personnel.

“There were times in our log where we had 20 contacts a minute — it was that quick. And there were other more relaxed times, where we were able to just sit and talk,” Zari said. “I don’t know how many times people said, ‘We thought NASA was gone. We thought NASA was dead.’ So we educated people around the world.”

The NASA on the Air event wrapped up with three special opportunities for people to use their radios to download images from the International Space Station. This was done in coordination with Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS), an international consortium of amateur radio organizations and space agencies. ARISS encourages young people to explore science, technology, engineering and math through the use of ham radios, and their program works to connect students worldwide with astronauts onboard the space station.

For the final three events, cosmonauts on the station transmitted several NASA on the Air images from space. Participants could compete to collect images and upload them to a website for credit. Over 34,600 uploads were received from 18,619 participants.

The reaction to NASA on the Air was so positive, NASA Radio Clubs plans to activate NASA on the Air for special anniversaries in 2019 and beyond (e.g. 50th Anniversary of Apollo 11). Follow @NASARadioClubs on Twitter or join the NASA on the Air (NOTA) group on Facebook for notifications of future activities.

Plant Experiment Veg-03 H Initiated on Space Station

Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques began growing two new crops aboard the International Space Station on Saturday, March 9, 2019.
Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques initiated plant experiment Veg-03 H aboard the International Space Station on Saturday, March 9, 2019. This required Saint-Jacques to add water to “plant pillows,” which are space pots for plants that contain pre-packed seeds, granular media for the roots to grow into, controlled-release fertilizer, and a way for the on-orbit gardeners to water their plants in microgravity. The experiment should take 30 days to complete and will provide data on food safety for the new crops to compare to ground studies in order to establish a baseline.

Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques began growing two new crops aboard the International Space Station on Saturday, March 9, 2019. The two crops, Wasabi Mustard Greens and Extra Dwarf Pak Choi, are part of experiment Veg-03 H. Saint-Jacques placed six “plant pillows” into the veggie growth chamber. This experiment is part of ongoing research on the space station and on Earth to identify fresh vegetables capable of providing astronauts food and nutrition during long-duration spaceflight, including future missions to the Moon or Mars.

Each pillow serves as a pot designed for space with pre-packed seeds, a substance for the roots to grow into, controlled-release fertilizer, and a way for the in-orbit gardeners to water their plants in microgravity.

High school and middle school students participating in the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden’s Growing beyond Earth Challenge identified Extra Dwarf Pak Choi as a potential candidate crop for space through classroom science experiments, along with Dragoon Lettuce, which NASA astronaut Serena Auñón-Chancellor grew on the station last fall. Using science stations designed to mimic conditions on the space station gave students a chance to grow plants and record data that NASA was able to use. Those experiments culminated in the plant species which launched to the space station aboard the 15th SpaceX cargo resupply mission on June 29, 2018, along with three other plant species.

The experiment should take 30 days to complete and will provide data on food safety for the new crops to compare to ground studies in order to establish a baseline.

“I think the astronauts will be surprised to learn that the Extra Dwarf Pak Choi that they grow and eat has the same amount of Vitamin C by weight as does a fresh Florida orange,” said NASA scientist Matt Romeyn, “and the leaves don’t taste much different than other fresh leafy greens.”