SpaceX CRS-17 Targets April 26 Launch

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifts off from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida at 4:30 p.m. EDT on April 2, 2018.
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifts off from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on April 2, 2018, carrying the SpaceX Dragon resupply spacecraft on the company’s 14th Commercial Resupply Services contract mission to the International Space Station. Photo credit: NASA/Tony Gray, Tim Powers, Tim Terry

A SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft is scheduled to launch at 5:55 a.m. EDT on Friday, April 26, on a Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. This will be SpaceX’s 17th Commercial Resupply Services contract mission to the International Space Station for NASA.

Launch on April 26 results in an arrival at the space station for a robotic capture by Expedition 59 crew members David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency and Nick Hague of NASA on Sunday, April 28, at 7 a.m. EDT for a month-long stay.

Learn more about station activities by following @space_station and @ISS_Research on Twitter as well as the ISS Facebook and ISS Instagram accounts.

Successful Launch for SpaceX Falcon 9, CRS-15

Now in its preliminary orbit, the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft will begin its three-day pursuit of the International Space Station. It’s scheduled to arrive Monday, July 2. NASA astronaut Ricky Arnold will be the prime operator of the station’s Canadarm2 robotic arm; he will be backed up by NASA astronaut Drew Feustel. Meanwhile, NASA astronaut Serena Auñón-Chancellor will keep watch over the spacecraft’s systems. Dragon will be installed on the station’s Harmony module.

Solar Arrays Deploying

One of the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft's solar arrays is visible as it deploys.
One of the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft’s solar arrays is visible as it deploys. Image credit: NASA TV

Dragon’s twin solar arrays are deploying now.

The spacecraft is in orbit after a successful predawn launch aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. The on-time liftoff took place at 5:42 a.m. EDT from Space Launch Complex 40 at Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

Dragon Spacecraft Separation

The SpaceX Dragon spacecraft is flying on its own in a preliminary orbit after separation from the Falcon 9 rocket’s second stage. Coming up, the Dragon’s power-generating solar arrays will deploy, a process that takes about 8 to 10 minutes.

Here are a few early photos from this morning’s liftoff.

Liftoff of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
Liftoff of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Launch of the SpaceX CRS-15 mission took place at 5:42 a.m. EDT. Image credit: NASA TV
Liftoff of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
Liftoff of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Launch of the SpaceX CRS-15 mission took place at 5:42 a.m. EDT. Image credit: NASA TV
The glow of liftoff shines through the treeline southeast of the Launch Complex 39 news center at Kennedy Space Center.
The glow of liftoff shines through the treeline southeast of the Launch Complex 39 news center at Kennedy Space Center. The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft launched at 5:42 a.m. EDT from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Photo credit: NASA/Dan Casper
The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket leaves a vapor trail over Kennedy Space Center's Launch Complex 39 area following the 5:42 a.m. EDT launch of the company's 15th commercial resupply mission to the International Space Station.
The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket leaves a vapor trail over Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39 area following the 5:42 a.m. EDT launch of the company’s 15th commercial resupply mission to the International Space Station. Photo credit: NASA/Dan Casper

Liftoff!

Liftoff of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft on the company’s 15th commercial resupply mission to the International Space Station for NASA. The vehicle is climbing away from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 40, lighting the predawn sky over Florida’s Space Coast as it blazes a trail downrange.

The vehicle will pass “max Q” about a minute and 18 seconds into the flight. Just over a minute later, the nine Merlin engines powering the rocket’s first stage will shut down and separate from the vehicle, clearing the way for the second stage’s single Merlin engine to ignite and continue the flight.

T-7 Minutes and Counting

As the final minutes count down toward the 5:42 a.m. liftoff of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft, there are some significant milestones clearing the way toward launch. The Falcon 9’s Merlin engines will be chilled to condition them before they come in contact with cryogenic propellants. The strongback, a gantry-like support structure at Space Launch Complex 40, will lower away from the rocket. Finally, the Eastern Range and the SpaceX launch director each will give a final approval to launch.

What’s on Board?

The ECOsystem Spaceborne Thermal Radiometer Experiment on Space Station (ECOSTRESS), pictured at the bottom, and the Latching End Effector (LEE), pictured at the top, are integrated into the unpressurized SpaceX Dragon truck June 2, 2018, at the SpaceX facility on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
The ECOsystem Spaceborne Thermal Radiometer Experiment on Space Station (ECOSTRESS), pictured at the bottom, and the Latching End Effector (LEE), pictured at the top, are integrated into the unpressurized SpaceX Dragon truck June 2, 2018, at the SpaceX facility on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Photo credit: SpaceX

This special delivery, like all commercial cargo resupply missions, contains a variety of items on their way to the International Space Station. The Dragon spacecraft has been carefully packed with nearly 6,000 pounds of science and research, as well as station hardware and supplies for the astronauts living on board.

The Crew Interactive Mobile Companion (CIMON)
The Crew Interactive Mobile Companion (CIMON). Photo credit: NASA

Here is a high-level look at some of the science traveling to the station on CRS-15:

  • Crew Interactive Mobile Companion (CIMON), a European Space Agency (ESA) investigation, explores the use of AI as a way to mitigate crew stress and workload during long-term spaceflight.
  • The ECOsystem Spaceborne Thermal Radiometer Experiment on Space Station (ECOSTRESS) measures the temperature of plants and uses that information to better understand how much water plants need, how they respond to stress and how some regions may respond to future changes in climate. Read more about four other things ECOSTRESS can see.
  • Rodent Research-7 studies the array of effects spaceflight has on bodily systems.
  • Angiex Cancer Therapy examines whether endothelial cells cultured in microgravity represent a valid in vitro model to test the effects of vascular-targeted agents on normal blood vessels.
  • Growing Chemical Gardens in a microgravity environment allows researchers a better assessment of initiation and evolution of these structures, which grow during the interaction of metal salt solutions with silicates, carbonates or other selected anions.
  • Read more about these investigations here.

Additionally, four new varieties of plants are headed to the station for testing in the Veggie growth chamber. NASA researchers had help on this mission from middle and high school students who selected two of these plants. Read more here.

Hardware bound for the station includes a new Canadian-built Latching End Effector (LEE) for the station’s Canadarm2, which is outfitted with an LEE at each end. This unit is launching as a spare to replace a unit that failed and was removed last fall.

Also making the journey to the orbiting outpost is a toy dog representing the Newfoundland that accompanied Lewis and Clark on their historic expedition across the American west. The dog’s flight to the space station is a collaboration between NASA and the National Park Service as the agencies celebrate NASA’s 60th anniversary and the National Trail System’s 50th anniversary.

The Falcon and Dragon

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft await liftoff from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft await liftoff from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Image credit: NASA TV

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket is a two-stage rocket powered by nine of the company’s Merlin engines on the first stage, and a single Merlin engine on the second stage. These engines run on cryogenic liquid oxygen and a fuel called RP-1, a highly refined kerosene.

The rocket is topped by the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft, which provides pressurized and unpressurized “trunk” space for the cargo it’s carrying to the International Space Station.

The first stage flying today has been flown before – it was used on the launch of NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) on April 18 of this year. Additionally, the Dragon launching today is making its second trip to the station; it previously flew on SpaceX CRS-9, back in July 2016.

Read more about the Falcon 9 rocket and the Dragon spacecraft.