SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft – carrying several thousand pounds of critical science, hardware, and crew supplies – is on its way to the International Space Station following a successful launch from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The company’s Falcon 9 rocket lifted off from Launch Complex 39A at 8:30 p.m. EDT, beginning SpaceX’s 27th resupply services mission to the orbiting laboratory.
Dragon is now safely in orbit. A series of thruster firings will help Dragon reach the space station about 36 hours later. Upon its arrival, it will autonomously dock to the station’s Harmony module, with NASA astronaut Woody Hoburg monitoring operations. Live coverage of Dragon’s arrival will air on NASA TV, the NASA app, and the agency’s website beginning at 6:15 a.m. Thursday, March 16. Docking is scheduled for approximately 7:52 a.m.
In addition to delivering station supplies, fresh food, and hardware, Dragon also will deliver multiple science and research investigations, including the final two experiments of the National Institutes for Health and International Space Station National Laboratory’s Tissue Chips in Space initiative. Both experiments – the Cardinal Heart 2.0 and Engineered Heart Tissues-2 – use small devices containing living cells that mimic functions of heart tissues and organs to understand the role of microgravity on human health and use this information to improve health on Earth.
Dragon will spend about a month attached to the space station before autonomously undocking and returning to Earth with research and return cargo, splashing down in the off the coast of Florida.
SpaceX’s uncrewed Dragon spacecraft has separated from the Falcon 9 rocket’s second stage, as the spacecraft continues its journey to the International Space Station to deliver critical supplies, equipment, and material to support multiple science and research experiments that will take place aboard the orbiting laboratory.
Dragon is expected to arrive at the space station around 7:52 a.m. EDT Thursday, March 16, docking to the station’s Harmony port – recently vacated by SpaceX’s crewed Dragon, named Endurance, which returned NASA’s SpaceX Crew-5 crew members Nicole Mann, Josh Cassada, Koichi Wakata, and Anna Kikina to Earth on March 11.
The Falcon 9 rocket’s first stage sticks the landing, touching down on the drone ship “A Shortfall of Gravitas” in the Atlantic Ocean. Today’s launch marked the seventh flight for this Falcon 9, and it is the second Dragon flight to the International Space Station this year – the first occurring just under two weeks ago.
Coming up next, Dragon will separate from the rocket’s second stage to continue its journey to the space station.
The nine Merlin engines in the Falcon 9 rocket’s first stage have finished their burn, and the first stage has separated from the vehicle. As the second stage continues carrying Dragon on its journey, the first stage will attempt landing on the drone ship “A Shortfall of Gravitas” just off the coast of Florida in the Atlantic Ocean. That landing is coming up in just over five minutes.
Liftoff! At 8:30 p.m. EDT, SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket rumbled off the pad at Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, starting Dragon’s two-day journey to the International Space Station.
Dragon will deliver new science investigations, supplies, and equipment for Expedition 68 and 69 crews currently aboard the orbiting laboratory. Coming up in the next minute, the Falcon 9 will pass through Max Q – the moment of peak mechanical stress on the rocket. At about two minutes and 30 seconds after liftoff, the main engine in the rocket’s first stage will shut off, followed by the first and second stages separating.
Launch preparations are well underway, and the countdown remains on track for SpaceX’s 27th cargo resupply launch for NASA to the International Space Station. Just 10 minutes from now, at 8:30 p.m. EDT, the Falcon 9 rocket’s nine Merlin engines will roar to life, sending the uncrewed Dragon on its way to the orbiting laboratory. The spacecraft will deliver critical supplies and equipment that will support dozens of the science and research investigations that will occur during Expeditions 68 and 69.
Coming up in the next few minutes, the Falcon 9 will begin its prelaunch engine chill, which involves flowing a small amount of the super-cold liquid oxygen (LOX) into the Merlin engines’ turbo pumps to avoid thermally shocking the system when the full flow of LOX runs through them.
Following that, Dragon will transition to internal power and the command flight computer will begin its final prelaunch checks, culminating with the SpaceX launch director verifying we are “go” for launch.
This is SpaceX’s second flight to the space station this year – the first, NASA’s SpaceX Crew-6 mission, took place just under two weeks ago, sending NASA astronauts Stephen Bowen and Woody Hoburg, UAE (United Arab Emirates) astronaut Sultan Alneyadi, and Roscosmos cosmonaut Andrey Fedyaev to the orbiting laboratory for a six-month science mission as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.
As a reminder, NASA TV, the NASA app, and the agency’s website continue to provide live coverage of tonight’s launch.
Hello from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida! A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, with the company’s Dragon spacecraft atop, stands ready for liftoff at historic Launch Complex 39A. Tonight’s launch is SpaceX’s 27th commercial resupply services mission for NASA, delivering more than 6,000 pounds of supplies, equipment, and research to the crew aboard the International Space Station. NASA is providing live coverage of the launch – watch now on NASA TV, the NASA app, and the agency’s website.
Liftoff is scheduled for 8:30 p.m. EDT, just 30 minutes away, and weather is looking great at 90% “go” for launch. Tonight’s launch is a coordinated effort, with launch controllers here in Florida working closely with teams at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston and SpaceX’s control center in Hawthorne, California.
Fueling of the Falcon 9 began approximately 20 minutes ago, with liquid oxygen flowing into the rocket’s first stage. In the next few minutes, fueling of the second stage will begin.
Here’s a full look at tonight’s countdown and ascent milestones. All times (EDT) are approximate:
– 00:38:00 SpaceX Launch Director verifies go for propellant load
– 00:35:00 RP-1 (rocket grade kerosene) loading begins
– 00:35:00 1st stage LOX (liquid oxygen) loading begins
– 00:16:00 2nd stage LOX loading begins
– 00:07:00 Falcon 9 begins prelaunch engine chill
– 00:05:00 Dragon transitions to internal power
– 00:01:00 Command flight computer to begin final prelaunch checks
– 00:01:00 Propellant tanks pressurize for flight
– 00:00:45 SpaceX Launch Director verifies go for launch
– 00:00:03 Engine controller commands engine ignition sequence to start
– 00:00:00 Falcon 9 liftoff
LAUNCH, LANDING, AND DRAGON DEPLOYMENT Hr/Min/Sec Event
00:01:12 Max Q (moment of peak mechanical stress on the rocket)
00:02:24 1st stage main engine cutoff (MECO)
00:02:28 1st and 2nd stages separate
00:02:35 2nd stage engine starts
00:05:44 1st stage entry burn begins
00:07:36 1st stage landing
00:08:38 2nd stage engine cutoff (SECO)
00:11:34 Dragon separates from 2nd stage
00:12:22 Dragon nosecone open sequence begins
On NASA’s next Educational Launch of Nanosatellites (ELaNa) mission, a pair of small satellites, called CubeSats, will hitch a ride on SpaceX’s 27th commercial resupply services mission to the International Space Station for NASA.
The ELaNa 50 complement of CubeSats will launch aboard the SpaceX Falcon 9 and Dragon spacecraft this March, from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, along with additional supplies, equipment, and science investigations to be delivered to the crew aboard the station.
The university-built CubeSats are going to space as part of NASA’s CubeSat Launch Initiative (CSLI). Once deployed, the CubeSats will demonstrate technologies to conduct atmospheric experiments and reduce space debris, as well as provide people on Earth the opportunity for an immediate and powerful connection with an object in space.
First Launch for The Natural State
The CSLI program will launch its first CubeSat from Arkansas. Developed at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, ARKSAT-1, is a CubeSat measuring 1U, or unit, (about 4 inches cubed). It will illuminate an LED from orbit and use a ground spectrometer to track and perform atmospheric measurements.
“It might be the first time this instrument technology is purposefully designed to be done with a CubeSat,” said Adam Huang, principal investigator. “It could be developed into future satellite-based systems using cooperative formations of CubeSats.”
ARKSAT-1’s secondary objective sets out to demonstrate a way to help alleviate the problem of space debris with a lightweight Solid State Inflatable Balloon (SSIB) that can be used to deorbit small satellites after a mission ends. When the balloon on ARKSAT-1 inflates, it will greatly increase the ARKSAT-1’s aerodynamic drag, thereby helping the satellite re-enter and disintegrate safely in Earth’s atmosphere. If successful, the SSIB technology could help reduce the amount of time a small satellite remains “space junk” in low-Earth orbit after its mission has ended.
Helping Others See the Light
LightCube, a 1U CubeSat developed by Arizona State University, Tempe, in collaboration with Vega Space Systems and Mexico’s CETYS Universidad, features a flash bulb that can be controlled remotely by amateur radio operators on Earth who will be able to activate the satellite to produce a brief flash visible from the ground.
“LightCube provides potential users worldwide with the opportunity to telecommand a spacecraft and observe a tangible and immediate response in the night sky,” said Jaime Sanchez de la Vega, principal investigator. “The team hopes that this process inspires users to learn about space, satellites, and related concepts.”
The flash will appear at a brightness similar to the International Space Station, and several commonly available smartphone and computer apps will show when LightCube is overhead and where to look in the sky to see its flash.
Considering the observational environment, the LightCube team conducted an in-depth assessment to confirm that the brief flashes generated will not have a significant impact on astronomy.
In selecting the CubeSats for ELaNa 50, CSLI continues furthering its goal of providing U.S. educational institutions, nonprofits with an education/outreach component, informal educational institutions (museums and science centers), and NASA centers with access to space at a low cost. Through CSLI, NASA’s Launch Services Program pairs selected CubeSats with launches best suited for each CubeSat’s mission and ready date, taking into consideration the planned orbit and any special constraints the CubeSat’s mission may have.