Saturday Morning, 4:47am, Launch: Confirmed. SpaceX launched another successful resupply mission to the International Space Station this morning. The successful launch comes in the wake of the Orbital Sciences Antares rocket explosion back in late October, and is the fourth mission as part of a 12+ Mission contract with NASA worth 1.6 Billion dollars. The Dragon capsule is expected to rendezvous with the ISS early Monday morning, where Astronauts will use the Canada arm to grab it and connect.
The capsule will remain connected to the ISS for more than four weeks as ISS astronauts unpack supplies and repack completed experiments and waste, finally returning to Earth the next day. Currently more than two tons of experiments and supplies are on their way up, including a new NASA project known as the Cloud Aerosol Transport System (CATS). CATS will lock onto the outside of the space station and use laser sensors to evaluate clouds and tiny particles in the Earth’s atmosphere to study climate change and weather patterns.
The good news is that students from the Bert Edwards Science and Technology School in Kamloops, BC, who lost their experiment in the Antares explosion, were fast-tracked for the Dragon resupply and have a new experiment on its way up to the ISS right now. Proof that sometimes Science requires starting from scratch, but with hard work and dedication, with a little help from friends such as the Canadian Space Agency, any obstacle can be overcome.
The other major goal of the mission was to land the reusable Falcon 9 rocket on a floating platform 250 miles away from the launch site in the Atlantic Ocean, only 91 meters long by 52 meters wide, a pretty small target. Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX, gave an update on the results. “Rocket made it to drone spaceport ship, but landed hard. Close, but no cigar this time. Bodes well for the future tho.” “Ship itself is fine. Some of the support equipment on the deck will need to be replaced…”
So it was a hard landing, but still a positive step toward reusability of the rocket without an ocean recovery.
Space.com produced an amazing infographic of the entire mission, as they often do. It shows the entire set of mission objectives as well as some information about the reusable Falcon 9 rocket.