NASA, SpaceX ‘Go’ for Tomorrow’s CRS-21 Launch

A prelaunch news conference is held for CRS-21 on Dec. 4, 2020.
NASA and SpaceX conduct a prelaunch news conference on Dec. 4, 2020, at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida ahead of SpaceX’s 21st Commercial Resupply Services (CRS-21) launch. From left are: Kenny Todd, deputy program manager of NASA’s International Space Station Program Office; Kirt Costello, chief scientist of NASA’s International Space Station Program Office; Sarah Walker, director of SpaceX Dragon Mission Management; and Melody Lovin, launch and weather officer for the 45th Space Wing’s U.S. Space Force. Photo credit: NASA/Isaac Watson

Following a prelaunch news conference at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, NASA and SpaceX remain “go” for tomorrow’s launch of SpaceX’s 21st Commercial Resupply Services mission to the International Space Station.

CRS-21 logo“This morning, we did a mission management team meeting, and we had a unanimous go for this launch and docking,” said Kenny Todd, deputy program manager of NASA’s International Space Station Program Office. “We’re excited to get on with it; we’ll see how things play out over the next couple of days, but hopefully by the middle of the week, we’ll have a Dragon on the way, if not already attached (to station).”

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket, with the upgraded cargo Dragon spacecraft atop, stands poised for launch at Kennedy’s Launch Complex 39A, and weather officials are now predicting a 50% chance of favorable weather conditions for liftoff. While that’s a slight increase over previous launch forecasts, a cold front moving across the state of Florida will have teams keeping a close eye on the weather.

“Previously, it looked like that cold front would be passing right during the launch window, but the trend is now our friend – the models are now bringing that cold front through prior to the launch window,” said Melody Lovin, U.S. Space Force launch and weather officer for the 45th Space Wing.

“Because of that, we’re expecting most of the rain associated with the cold front to be pretty much done before the launch window opens up. We’re not exactly sure when the clouds are going to clear out of the way for us. We’re hoping the earlier the cold front will pass, the more clearing we’ll get.”

SpaceX's Cargo Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket stand ready for liftoff for CRS-21.
The upgraded SpaceX Cargo Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket stand ready for liftoff at NASA Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A in Florida after being raised to a vertical position on Dec. 2, 2020, ahead of the company’s 21st Commercial Resupply Services (CRS-21) launch. Liftoff of the Falcon 9 is scheduled for 11:39 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 5. Photo credit: SpaceX

The first mission for SpaceX under NASA’s second Commercial Resupply Services contract, CRS-21 will deliver more than 6,400 pounds of supplies, equipment, and critical materials needed to support a variety of science and research investigations that will occur during Expeditions 64 and 65. With SpaceX’s Crew Dragon carrying a crew of four to the orbiting laboratory last month, the mission will also mark the first time two Dragon spacecraft will be attached to the space station simultaneously.

“It really ushers in a season of continuous Dragon presence for the near future,” said Sarah Walker, director of SpaceX Dragon Mission Management. “We’re excited about all of the missions that we’ll be flying for NASA and the International Space Station program, both cargo and crew, and it’s really just an honor to be a part of that.”

Dragon will spend about one month attached to the orbiting laboratory before autonomously undocking and returning to Earth with 5,200 pounds research and return cargo. The spacecraft is slated to splash down in the Atlantic Ocean upon its arrival.

Liftoff is targeted for 11:39 a.m. EST tomorrow, Dec. 5, with live launch countdown coverage beginning at 11:15 a.m. EST. Follow along here on the blog, NASA TV, or the agency’s website. Learn more about the mission at: https://www.nasa.gov/sites/default/files/atoms/files/spacex_crs-21_mision_overview_high_res_0.pdf

CRS-21 Prelaunch News Conference Set for 4 p.m. Today, Dec. 4

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Cargo Dragon spacecraft stand ready for liftoff for the company's CRS-21 launch.
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, with the upgraded Cargo Dragon spacecraft atop, stands ready for liftoff NASA Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A in Florida after being raised to a vertical position on Dec. 2, 2020, ahead of the company’s 21st Commercial Resupply Services (CRS-21) launch. Liftoff of the Falcon 9 is scheduled for 11:39 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 5. Photo credit: SpaceX

The launch readiness review for SpaceX’s 21st Commercial Resupply Services (CRS-21) mission to the International Space Station has concluded, and the prelaunch news conference is set for 4 p.m. EST today, Dec. 4, from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Watch live on NASA TV or the agency’s website.

Participants include:

  • Kenny Todd, deputy program manager, International Space Station Program Office
  • Kirt Costello, chief scientist, International Space Station Program Office
  • Sarah Walker, director, Dragon Mission Management, SpaceX
  • Melody Lovin, launch weather officer, U.S. Air Force 45th Space Wing

Liftoff of the Falcon 9 rocket and cargo Dragon spacecraft is scheduled for 11:39 a.m. EST tomorrow, Dec. 5, from Kennedy’s Launch Complex 39A. Weather officials with the U.S. Air Force 45th Space Wing are predicting a 50% chance of favorable weather conditions for launch. Primary weather concerns are the cumulus cloud rule and the thick layer cloud rule.

SpaceX’s CRS-21: A Mission of Many Firsts

CRS-21 mission firsts graphic.

While this launch marks the first under SpaceX’s second Commercial Resupply Services contract with NASA, the mission also brings many other firsts to the table:

  • CRS-21 will be the first to splash down in the Atlantic Ocean upon the uncrewed cargo Dragon’s return to Earth
  • First time the crew access arm was used to load a cargo resupply mission
  • The first time there will be two Dragon spacecraft docked to the International Space Station (uncrewed cargo Dragon and the Crew-1 Dragon)
  • First automated docking to station for a SpaceX cargo resupply mission
  • First flight of SpaceX’s upgraded cargo version of Dragon, which can carry more science payloads to and from the space station

With the upgraded Dragon spacecraft comes double the capacity for powered lockers that preserve science and research samples during transport to or from Earth. The CRS-1 Dragon had six lockers available, whereas the upgraded version of Dragon has 12.

The upgraded Dragon also provides the capability for science payloads to remain in the spacecraft for the full duration of the mission. While the spacecraft is docked at the orbiting laboratory during CRS-21, four powered payloads will reside in Dragon.

Tune in for SpaceX CRS-21 Prelaunch Events

CRS-20 liftoff
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifts off from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida at 11:50 p.m. EST on March 6, 2020, carrying the uncrewed cargo Dragon spacecraft on its journey to the International Space Station for NASA and SpaceX’s 20th Commercial Resupply Services (CRS-20) mission. Photo credit: NASA/Tony Gray and Tim Terry

Beginning at 1 p.m. EST today, Dec. 4, tune in for the CRS-21 Virtual #NASASocial Science and Station Q&A, airing live on NASA TV and the agency’s website. Following this, later in the afternoon, there will be a prelaunch news conference (this will occur approximately one hour after the conclusion of the launch readiness review.) Participants include:

  • Kenny Todd, deputy program manager, International Space Station Program Office
  • Kirt Costello, chief scientist, International Space Station Program Office
  • Sarah Walker, director, Dragon Mission Management, SpaceX
  • Melody Lovin, launch weather officer, U.S. Air Force 45th Space Wing

CRS-21 logoSpaceX’s 21st Commercial Resupply Services mission to the International Space Station is scheduled for tomorrow, Dec. 5. Liftoff of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and cargo Dragon spacecraft is targeted for 11:39 a.m. EST from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Live launch coverage begins at 11:15 a.m. EST here on the blog, NASA TV, and the agency’s website.

Weather officials with the U.S. Air Force 45th Space Wing are now predicting a 50% chance of favorable weather conditions for liftoff. Primary weather concerns continue to revolve around the cumulus cloud rule and thick cloud layer rule.

Packed inside Dragon are critical science investigations, supplies, and equipment bound for the orbiting laboratory. One item for delivery is the Nanoracks Bishop Airlock – the first commercially owned and operated airlock that, once installed, will provide a variety of capabilities to the space station, such as payload hosting, robotics testing, and satellite deployment.

Learn more about some of the science and payloads on board at: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/news/spacex-21-research-highlights.

NASA, SpaceX on Track for Dec. 5 Cargo Resupply Launch

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Cargo Dragon spacecraft stand ready for liftoff for the company's CRS-21 launch.
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, with the upgraded Cargo Dragon spacecraft atop, stands ready for liftoff at NASA Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A in Florida after being raised to a vertical position on Dec. 2, 2020, ahead of the company’s 21st Commercial Resupply Services (CRS-21) launch. Liftoff of the Falcon 9 is scheduled for 11:39 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 5. Photo credit: SpaceX

NASA and SpaceX are targeting Saturday, Dec. 5, for SpaceX’s 21st Commercial Resupply Services (CRS-21) mission to the International Space Station. Weather officials with the U.S. Air Force 45th Space Wing are predicting a 40% chance of favorable weather conditions for liftoff of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Cargo Dragon spacecraft from Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A in Florida.

Primary weather concerns are the cumulus cloud rule, thick cloud layer rule, and flight through precipitation.

SpaceX's Cargo Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket stand ready for liftoff for CRS-21.
The upgraded SpaceX Cargo Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket stand ready for liftoff at NASA Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A in Florida after being raised to a vertical position on Dec. 2, 2020, ahead of the company’s 21st Commercial Resupply Services (CRS-21) launch. Liftoff of the Falcon 9 is scheduled for 11:39 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 5. Photo credit: SpaceX

CRS-21 is the first mission under the company’s second Commercial Resupply Services contract with NASA and the first flight of the upgraded cargo version of Dragon 2. The mission will deliver supplies, equipment, and critical materials to support dozens of the more than 250 science and research investigations that will occur aboard the orbiting laboratory during Expeditions 64 and 65.

Liftoff of the Falcon 9 is scheduled for 11:39 a.m. EST, and Dragon is slated to autonomously dock at the space station at approximately 11:30 a.m. EST on Sunday, Dec. 6. NASA astronauts and Expedition 64 Flight Engineers Kate Rubins and Victor Glover will monitor docking operations.

Follow live coverage of the CRS-21 mission and prelaunch events here on the blog, NASA TV, and the agency’s website:

  • 1 p.m. EST Friday, Dec. 4 – Virtual #NASASocial Science and Station Q&A
  • TBD Friday, Dec. 4 – Prelaunch news conference from Kennedy with representatives from the International Space Station Program Office, SpaceX, and the U.S. Air Force 45th Space Wing
  • 11:15 a.m. EST Saturday, Dec. 5 – Live launch countdown coverage begins

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

SpaceX Falcon 9 and Cargo Dragon Prepare for Rollout

Falcon 9 and Cargo Dragon prepare to roll out to the launch pad for CRS-21.
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Cargo Dragon spacecraft are seen inside the company’s hangar at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Dec. 2, 2020, prior to being rolled out to the launch pad in preparation for the 21st Commercial Resupply Services (CRS-21) launch. Liftoff is scheduled for 11:39 a.m. EST on Saturday, Dec. 5, from Kennedy’s Launch Complex 39A. Photo credit: SpaceX

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, topped with the upgraded version of the Cargo Dragon spacecraft, is seen inside the company’s hangar at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Dec. 2, 2020, prior to being rolled out to the launch pad in preparation for the CRS-21 launch. The rocket and spacecraft are slated to make the short journey to the pad later this afternoon.

The upgraded version of Cargo Dragon for SpaceX's CRS-21 launch.
The upgraded version of SpaceX’s Cargo Dragon spacecraft, Dragon 2, is seen atop the Falcon 9 rocket as they prepare to be rolled to Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A on Dec. 2, 2020, in preparation for the company’s 21st Commercial Resupply Services (CRS-21) launch. Photo credit: SpaceX

The first launch for SpaceX under NASA’s second Commercial Resupply Services contract, CRS-21 is scheduled to lift off from Kennedy’s Launch Complex 39A on Saturday, Dec. 5, at 11:39 a.m. EST. Weather officials with the U.S. Air Force 45th Space Wing predict a 40% chance of favorable weather conditions for liftoff, with primary concerns revolving around flight through precipitation, the cumulus cloud rule, and thick cloud layer rule.

The mission will deliver critical supplies and equipment to the International Space Station. Included in that delivery are materials for a variety of science experiments, including meteorite samples and microbes, 3D engineered heart tissues, and a tool being tested for quick and accurate blood analysis in microgravity.

Learn more about some of this mission’s science and its payloads at: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/news/spacex-21-research-highlights/

NASA and SpaceX “Go” for Dec. 5 Cargo Resupply Launch

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket awaits liftoff for SpaceX's 20th Commercial Resupply Services Mission in March 2020.
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and cargo Dragon spacecraft stand ready for liftoff at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 40 in Florida on March 6, 2020, for NASA and SpaceX’s 20th Commercial Resupply Services (CRS-20) mission to the International Space Station. Liftoff occurred at 11:50 p.m. EST. Photo credit: NASA/Tony Gray and Tim Terry

NASA and SpaceX managers conducted a Flight Readiness Review (FRR) Monday, Nov. 23, for SpaceX’s 21st Commercial Resupply Services (CRS-21) mission to the International Space Station.

To enable additional time to evaluate flight data from Crew-1 and close out certification work ahead of this first flight of the cargo version of Dragon 2, teams are now proceeding toward a planned liftoff at 11:39 a.m. EST on Saturday, Dec. 5, from Launch Complex 39A at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, with the Dragon spacecraft arriving to autonomously dock at the orbiting laboratory on Sunday, Dec. 6, at approximately 11:30 a.m.

The science to be delivered on this mission includes a study aimed at better understanding the effects of microgravity on cardiac function in human heart tissue, research into how microbes could be used for biomining on asteroids, and a tool being tested for quick and accurate blood analysis in microgravity. The first commercially owned and operated airlock on the space station, the Nanoracks Bishop Airlock, will arrive in the unpressurized trunk of the Dragon spacecraft. Bishop will provide a variety of capabilities to the orbiting laboratory, including CubeSat deployment and support of external payloads.

NASA and SpaceX Target Dec. 2 for Next Resupply Launch

SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifts off from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida at 11:50 p.m. EST on March 6, 2020, carrying the uncrewed cargo Dragon spacecraft on its journey to the International Space Station for NASA and SpaceX’s 20th Commercial Resupply Services (CRS-20) mission. Photo credit: NASA/Tony Gray and Tim Terry

While SpaceX continues preparations for the launch of NASA’s SpaceX Crew-1 mission to the International Space Station as part of the Commercial Crew Program, the company also is getting ready for the agency’s next cargo resupply mission to the orbiting laboratory.

SpaceX’s 21st resupply mission for NASA, its first under the second-generation Commercial Resupply Services (CRS-2) contract, will be the first resupply mission to use the upgraded version of the Dragon spacecraft. The flight will bring science and supplies to the newly expanded Expedition 64 crew beginning with liftoff on the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

NASA and SpaceX currently are targeting no earlier than 12:50 p.m. ET on Wednesday, Dec. 2, for the CRS-21 launch, pending Eastern Range acceptance and successful preparations and an on-time liftoff of Crew-1, also from Launch Complex 39A.

The science to be delivered on this mission includes a study aimed at better understanding heart disease to support development of treatments for patients on Earth, research into how microbes can be used for biomining on asteroids, and a tool being tested for quick and accurate blood analysis in microgravity. The first commercially owned and operated airlock on the space station, the Nanoracks Bishop Airlock, will arrive in the unpressurized trunk of the Dragon spacecraft. Bishop will provide a variety of capabilities to the orbiting laboratory, including CubeSat deployment and support of external payloads.

Next-Generation Airlock Prepped for SpaceX CRS-21 Launch

The Nanoracks Bishop Airlock is launching on SpaceX’s 21st commercial resupply services mission to the International Space Station. Photo credit: SpaceX

The first commercially funded airlock for the International Space Station is ready for its journey to space. On Saturday, Oct. 10, teams moved the Nanoracks Bishop Airlock to SpaceX’s processing facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Two days later, it was packed in the Dragon spacecraft’s trunk for its ride to the orbiting laboratory.

CRS-21
The airlock will provide payload hosting, robotics testing, and satellite deployment, while also serving as an outside toolbox for astronauts conducting spacewalks. Photo credit: SpaceX

The airlock will provide payload hosting, robotics testing, and satellite deployment, and also will serve as an outside toolbox for crew members conducting spacewalks.

The Bishop Airlock is launching on SpaceX’s 21st commercial resupply services (CRS-21) mission to the space station. This will be the first flight of SpaceX’s upgraded cargo version of Dragon, which can carry more science payloads to and from the space station.

The pressurized capsule will carry a variety of research including studies on the effects of microgravity on cardiovascular cells, how space conditions affect the interaction between microbes and minerals, and a technology demonstration of a blood analysis tool in space.

CRS-21 is scheduled to launch aboard a Falcon 9 rocket from Kennedy’s Launch Complex 39A. Teams are targeting late November or early December for liftoff.

SpaceX Dragon Heads to Space Station with NASA Science, Cargo

A SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft launches on a Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida at 11:50 p.m. EST March 6, 2020.
A SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft launches on a Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida at 11:50 p.m. EST March 6, 2020. Photo credit: NASA

A SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft is on its way to the International Space Station after launching at 11:50 p.m. EST Friday. Dragon will deliver more than 4,300 pounds of NASA cargo and science investigations, including a new science facility scheduled to be installed to the outside of the station during a spacewalk this spring.

The spacecraft launched on a Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida and is scheduled to arrive at the orbital outpost on Monday, March 9. Coverage of the spacecraft’s approach and arrival at the space station will begin at 5:30 a.m. EDT on NASA Television and the agency’s website.

Dragon will join three other spacecraft currently at the station. When it arrives, NASA Flight Engineer Andrew Morgan will grapple Dragon, backed up by NASA’s Jessica Meir. Coverage of robotic installation to the Earth-facing port of the Harmony module will begin at 8:30 a.m.

Dragon is scheduled to remain at the space station until April 9, when the spacecraft will return to Earth with research and cargo.

This delivery, SpaceX’s 20th cargo flight to the space station under NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services contract, will support dozens of new and existing investigations. NASA’s research and development work aboard the space station contributes to the agency’s deep space exploration plans, including future Moon and Mars missions.

Here are details about some of the scientific investigations Dragon is delivering:

New Facility Outside the Space Station
The Bartolomeo facility, created by ESA (European Space Agency) and Airbus, attaches to the exterior of the European Columbus Module. Designed to provide new scientific opportunities on the outside of the space station for commercial and institutional users, the facility offers unobstructed views both toward Earth and into space. Potential applications include Earth observation, robotics, material science and astrophysics.

Studying the Human Intestine On a Chip
Organ-Chips as a Platform for Studying Effects of Space on Human Enteric Physiology (Gut on Chip) examines the effect of microgravity and other space-related stress factors on biotechnology company Emulate’s human innervated Intestine-Chip (hiIC). This Organ-Chip device enables the study of organ physiology and diseases in a laboratory setting. It allows for automated maintenance, including imaging, sampling, and storage on orbit and data downlink for molecular analysis on Earth.

Growing Human Heart Cells
Generation of Cardiomyocytes From Human Induced Pluripotent Stem Cell-derived Cardiac Progenitors Expanded in Microgravity (MVP Cell-03) examines whether microgravity increases the production of heart cells from human-induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs). The investigation induces stem cells to generate heart precursor cells and cultures those cells on the space station to analyze and compare with cultures grown on Earth.

These are just a few of the hundreds of investigations providing opportunities for U.S. government agencies, private industry, and academic and research institutions to conduct microgravity research that leads to new technologies, medical treatments and products that improve life on Earth. Conducting science aboard the orbiting laboratory will help us learn how to keep astronauts healthy during long-duration space travel and demonstrate technologies for future human and robotic exploration beyond low-Earth orbit to the Moon and Mars.

For almost 20 years, humans have lived and worked continuously aboard the International Space Station, advancing scientific knowledge and demonstrating new technologies, making research breakthroughs not possible on Earth that will enable long-duration human and robotic exploration into deep space. As a global endeavor, 239 people from 19 countries have visited the unique microgravity laboratory that has hosted more than 2,800 research investigations from researchers in 108 countries.

For more information about the International Space Station, its research, and crew, visit https://www.nasa.gov/station.