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.
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
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.