Astronauts aboard the International Space Station can expect almost 5,000 pounds of new hardware and experiments in two days following Monday’s early-morning liftoff of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft. The launch lit up the skies over Florida’s Atlantic coast at 12:45:29 a.m. EDT as the nine engines of the Falcon rocket ignited to push the stack away from its launch pad and place the Dragon on a course to catch up to the station in two days.
Packed tightly inside the unpiloted Dragon spacecraft are a host of supplies for the station crew along with critical materials for dozens of the more than 250 scientific investigations slated to take place during the next several months. As an orbiting laboratory, the space station offers a unique platform to conduct research focused on improving aspects of life on Earth, decoding the challenges of long-duration spaceflight for astronauts traveling to deep-space in the future and for monitoring global changes on our home planet.
Dragon also carries a component for the station that will set it up for a new era of human spaceflight: international docking adapter, or IDA. The hardware is a ring weighing more than 1,000 pounds that will provide a standardized connection point to the station for visiting spacecraft including the Boeing CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX Crew Dragon, both now in development in partnership with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. Read much more about the launch and its scientific payloads at http://go.nasa.gov/2amfut8