A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket successfully launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 40 in Florida on July 25, 2019, at 6:01 p.m. EDT, carrying the company’s Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station on its 18th Commercial Resupply Services (CRS-18) mission.
“It was a great launch, we were really happy to see the weather clear out the way it did,” said Bill Spetch, deputy manager of the International Space Station Transportation Integration Office at NASA.
Weather was one thing the launch team closely monitored. Originally scheduled to launch July 24, unfavorable weather conditions caused a last-minute scrub. The morning of July 25, the weather looked much the same but cleared up just in time.
After a picture-perfect launch and spacecraft separation, Dragon is now drawing power from its solar arrays as it begins its solo, two-day trip to the orbiting laboratory. This is the first time a Dragon spacecraft will journey to the space station for a third time. To mark this accomplishment, it is outfitted with three noteworthy stickers: two station badges representing the previous resupply missions it has flown (CRS-6 and CRS-13) and the Apollo 50th anniversary logo.
“We are still inspired by all of the Apollo missions and are excited to continue to work with NASA as they continue to explore the universe,” SpaceX Director of Dragon Mission Management Jessica Jensen said in a prelaunch news conference July 24.
CRS-18 will deliver a number of science investigations, supplies and equipment to the orbiting laboratory, including the International Docking Adapter-3 – a new docking adapter that will enable future spacecraft built under NASA’s Commercial Crew Program to autonomously attach to the station.
Tune in to NASA TV and the agency’s website Saturday, July 27, beginning at 8:30 a.m. EDT to watch Dragon rendezvous, grapple and berthing to the station. When it arrives, NASA astronaut Nick Hague will robotically grapple Dragon, with NASA astronaut Christina Koch serving as backup.
After spacecraft capture – scheduled for approximately 10 a.m. – mission control in Houston will send ground commands for the station’s arm to rotate and install it on the bottom of the orbiting laboratory’s Harmony module. Dragon will remain at the space station until Aug. 20, when it will return to Earth with research and return cargo.