SpaceX CRS-16: Weather 90 Percent Favorable for Dec. 5 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 at 4:30 p.m. EDT on April 2, 2018, carrying the SpaceX Dragon resupply spacecraft. On its 14th commercial resupply services mission for NASA, Dragon delivered supplies, equipment and new science experiments for technology research to the space station. Photo credit: NASA/Tony Gray, Tim Powers, Tim Terry

Meteorologists with the U.S. Air Force 45th Space Wing predict a 90 percent chance of favorable weather for liftoff of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket for the company’s 16th commercial resupply services mission to the International Space Station. Launch is scheduled for Wednesday, Dec 5 at 1:16 p.m. EST from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. On launch day, the primary weather concern is liftoff winds.

Weather Improves to 60 Percent Chance Favorable for SpaceX CRS-16 Launch

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket soars upward after lifting 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 soars upward after lifting off from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida at 4:30 p.m. EDT, on April 2, 2018, carrying the SpaceX Dragon resupply spacecraft. On its 14th commercial resupply services mission for NASA, Dragon delivered supplies, equipment and new science experiments for technology research to the space station. Photo credit: NASA/Tony Gray, Tim Powers, Tim Terry

Meteorologists with the U.S. Air Force 45th Space Wing predict a 60 percent chance of favorable weather for liftoff of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket for the company’s 16th commercial resupply services mission to the International Space Station. Launch is scheduled for Tuesday, Dec 4 at 1:38 p.m. EST from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. On launch day, the primary weather concerns are violation of the thick cloud layer and cumulus cloud rules and flight through precipitation.

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.