A SpaceX Dragon spacecraft and nearly three tons of cargo including scientific equipment will rendezvous with the International Space Station on Monday morning. Astronaut Jack Fischer, one of the station’s resident crew members, will steer the robotic arm on the orbital laboratory to grapple the uncrewed Dragon. Ground controllers will operate the arm to maneuver the Dragon to a port on the station where the astronauts will open the hatch and unpack the spacecraft. NASA TV will begin covering the rendezvous at 8:30 a.m. Monday. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett
NASA and SpaceX officials will discuss today’s launch and the CRS-11 mission goals during a news conference at 6:30 p.m. ET that will air on NASA TV. A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft lifted off from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 5:07 p.m. The Dragon is carrying nearly 6,000 pounds of equipment and supplies, including research gear for a range of scientific experiments that are to be performed aboard the International Space Station. Photo credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls
Nearly three tons of research gear, supplies and hardware are on their way to the International Space Station following the liftoff this evening of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with a Dragon cargo spacecraft. The launch marked the 100th time a mission launched from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Launch occurred at 5:07 p.m. to cap a smooth countdown.
Now in orbit with its twin solar arrays open to generate power for the spacecraft systems, the Dragon is on course to rendezvous with the space station Monday, June 5. Astronaut Jack Fischer, working inside the station, will grapple the spacecraft with the station’s 57-foot-long robotic arm before ground controllers move the Dragon to a port on the station so the crew can unpack it.
Dragon will remain connected to the station until early July so astronauts can unpack the spacecraft and fill it with spent materials such as concluded experiments and hardware no longer needed in orbit.
Numerous experiments are packed inside the pressurized area of the Dragon, including experiments that will enhance study of the heart in microgravity, study microbials aboard the space station and enhance research on plants to be grown in orbit.
Along with the cargo inside the Dragon, three research elements also are packed inside the trunk that will be mounted on the outside of the station.
NICER, an instrument dedicated to studying the physics of neutron stars, will use the vantage point of the space station to gain unprecedented insight into the fast-spinning objects. The payload includes a technology demonstrator called SEXTANT to help researchers develop a pulsar-based space navigation system that could do for space navigation what GPS systems have done for Earth.
A technology demonstrator called ROSA also will be connected to the station’s exterior during the CRS-11 mission. Short for Roll Out Solar Array, the ROSA demonstrator will test a lightweight mechanism to deploy solar panels in space. The device may be used on future spacecraft to generate electricity. It cannot be fully tested on Earth because of the presence of gravity.
The MUSES platform will be moved from the Dragon to a position on the station where it can point instruments toward the Earth for a variety of observational missions ranging from agriculture and food security to oil and gas exploration.
The second stage engine cut off as planned to complete its work. The cargo-laden Dragon spacecraft separated on-time moments ago to catch up to the International Space Station to deliver nearly 6,000 pounds of experiments and equipment.
The nine Merlin engines that will power the Falcon 9’s first stage are being chilled for liftoff. The engines have to be conditioned to the supercold liquid oxygen that will run through the engines’ systems as the rocket flies into orbit.
Major elements of the Dragon spacecraft launching today were used in a previous SpaceX flight to the station. This will be the first time SpaceX is reusing one of its spacecraft for an International Space Station resupply mission.
Numerous experiments are packed inside the pressurized area of the Dragon, including experiments that will enhance study of the heart in microgravity, study microbials aboard the space station and enhance research on plants to be grown in orbit. For a closer look at the payloads aboard the CRS-11 Dragon, go to https://go.nasa.gov/2qG4NYO