Next-Generation Airlock Prepped for SpaceX CRS-21 Launch

The Nanoracks Bishop Airlock is launching on SpaceX’s 21st commercial resupply services mission to the International Space Station. Photo credit: SpaceX

The first commercially funded airlock for the International Space Station is ready for its journey to space. On Saturday, Oct. 10, teams moved the Nanoracks Bishop Airlock to SpaceX’s processing facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Two days later, it was packed in the Dragon spacecraft’s trunk for its ride to the orbiting laboratory.

CRS-21
The airlock will provide payload hosting, robotics testing, and satellite deployment, while also serving as an outside toolbox for astronauts conducting spacewalks. Photo credit: SpaceX

The airlock will provide payload hosting, robotics testing, and satellite deployment, and also will serve as an outside toolbox for crew members conducting spacewalks.

The Bishop Airlock is launching on SpaceX’s 21st commercial resupply services (CRS-21) mission to the space station. This will be the first flight of SpaceX’s upgraded cargo version of Dragon, which can carry more science payloads to and from the space station.

The pressurized capsule will carry a variety of research including studies on the effects of microgravity on cardiovascular cells, how space conditions affect the interaction between microbes and minerals, and a technology demonstration of a blood analysis tool in space.

CRS-21 is scheduled to launch aboard a Falcon 9 rocket from Kennedy’s Launch Complex 39A. Teams are targeting late November or early December for liftoff.

SpaceX Dragon Heads to Space Station with NASA Science, Cargo

A SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft launches on a Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida at 11:50 p.m. EST March 6, 2020.
A SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft launches on a Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida at 11:50 p.m. EST March 6, 2020. Photo credit: NASA

A SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft is on its way to the International Space Station after launching at 11:50 p.m. EST Friday. Dragon will deliver more than 4,300 pounds of NASA cargo and science investigations, including a new science facility scheduled to be installed to the outside of the station during a spacewalk this spring.

The spacecraft launched on a Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida and is scheduled to arrive at the orbital outpost on Monday, March 9. Coverage of the spacecraft’s approach and arrival at the space station will begin at 5:30 a.m. EDT on NASA Television and the agency’s website.

Dragon will join three other spacecraft currently at the station. When it arrives, NASA Flight Engineer Andrew Morgan will grapple Dragon, backed up by NASA’s Jessica Meir. Coverage of robotic installation to the Earth-facing port of the Harmony module will begin at 8:30 a.m.

Dragon is scheduled to remain at the space station until April 9, when the spacecraft will return to Earth with research and cargo.

This delivery, SpaceX’s 20th cargo flight to the space station under NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services contract, will support dozens of new and existing investigations. NASA’s research and development work aboard the space station contributes to the agency’s deep space exploration plans, including future Moon and Mars missions.

Here are details about some of the scientific investigations Dragon is delivering:

New Facility Outside the Space Station
The Bartolomeo facility, created by ESA (European Space Agency) and Airbus, attaches to the exterior of the European Columbus Module. Designed to provide new scientific opportunities on the outside of the space station for commercial and institutional users, the facility offers unobstructed views both toward Earth and into space. Potential applications include Earth observation, robotics, material science and astrophysics.

Studying the Human Intestine On a Chip
Organ-Chips as a Platform for Studying Effects of Space on Human Enteric Physiology (Gut on Chip) examines the effect of microgravity and other space-related stress factors on biotechnology company Emulate’s human innervated Intestine-Chip (hiIC). This Organ-Chip device enables the study of organ physiology and diseases in a laboratory setting. It allows for automated maintenance, including imaging, sampling, and storage on orbit and data downlink for molecular analysis on Earth.

Growing Human Heart Cells
Generation of Cardiomyocytes From Human Induced Pluripotent Stem Cell-derived Cardiac Progenitors Expanded in Microgravity (MVP Cell-03) examines whether microgravity increases the production of heart cells from human-induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs). The investigation induces stem cells to generate heart precursor cells and cultures those cells on the space station to analyze and compare with cultures grown on Earth.

These are just a few of the hundreds of investigations providing opportunities for U.S. government agencies, private industry, and academic and research institutions to conduct microgravity research that leads to new technologies, medical treatments and products that improve life on Earth. Conducting science aboard the orbiting laboratory will help us learn how to keep astronauts healthy during long-duration space travel and demonstrate technologies for future human and robotic exploration beyond low-Earth orbit to the Moon and Mars.

For almost 20 years, humans have lived and worked continuously aboard the International Space Station, advancing scientific knowledge and demonstrating new technologies, making research breakthroughs not possible on Earth that will enable long-duration human and robotic exploration into deep space. As a global endeavor, 239 people from 19 countries have visited the unique microgravity laboratory that has hosted more than 2,800 research investigations from researchers in 108 countries.

For more information about the International Space Station, its research, and crew, visit https://www.nasa.gov/station.

Dragon’s Solar Arrays Deployed

Dragon’s solar arrays are unfurled and the spacecraft will begin a carefully choreographed series of thruster firings to reach the orbiting laboratory three days later, on Monday, March 9. Dragon will deliver about 4,500 pounds of cargo to the International Space Station.

When it arrives March 9, Expedition 62 Flight Engineer Jessica Meir of NASA will grapple Dragon, with Andrew Morgan of NASA acting as a backup. The station crew will monitor Dragon functions during rendezvous. After Dragon’s capture, mission control at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston will send ground commands for the station’s arm to rotate and install it on the bottom of the station’s Harmony module.

Live coverage of the rendezvous and capture can be viewed on March 9 beginning at 5:30 a.m. EST at www.nasa.gov/live.

Liftoff! SpaceX CRS-20 Mission is Underway

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifts off with the Dragon cargo spacecraft from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida at 11:50 p.m. EST on March 6, 2020.
The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifts off with the Dragon cargo spacecraft from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida at 11:50 p.m. EST on March 6, 2020. Photo credit: NASA

T-0, ignition and liftoff of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft at 11:50 p.m. EST, setting off on the company’s 20th mission to deliver supplies, equipment and science experiments to the International Space Station. The vehicle is quickly climbing away from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

Ten Minutes Until Launch of SpaceX CRS-20 Mission

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Drago cargo spacecraft are on Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on March 6, 2020.
The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the Dragon cargo spacecraft are on the pad at Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The company’s 20th commercial resupply services (CRS-20) mission to the International Space Station is scheduled to launch at 11:50 p.m. EST tonight, March 6. Photo credit: NASA

The countdown continues toward liftoff at 11:50 p.m. EST, an instantaneous window, 10 minutes from now. During this time, the Falcon 9’s engines will be chilled to condition them for launch, the flight computer will run its prelaunch checks and the rocket’s propellant tanks will be brought to flight pressure. Finally, the SpaceX Launch Director will verify “go for launch.”

About three minutes prior to launch, the gantry-like strongback support structure will be lowered away from the rocket. The terminal countdown begins at T-30 seconds.

SpaceX Falcon 9 Set to Launch Dragon Spacecraft to the International Space Station

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon cargo spacecraft are on Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon cargo spacecraft are on Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, awaiting launch on the company’s 20th commercial resupply mission to the International Space Station. Launch is scheduled for 11:50 p.m. EST tonight, March 6. Photo credit: NASA

Hello and good evening from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft stand ready for liftoff, at Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Launch is targeted for 11:50 p.m. EST, with an instantaneous launch window.

The Falcon 9 rocket went vertical this afternoon. Weather is 60 percent favorable at launch time. Dragon’s internal countdown is running and propellant loading is underway.

This evening’s launch is a cross-country effort. Launch controllers at the Florida spaceport are working in concert with teams at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston and SpaceX’s control center in Hawthorne, California. The launch blog originates from the NASA News Center here at Kennedy, a few miles west of the launch complex. There’s more to come, so stay with us.