SpaceX Dragon Mission Gives U. S. New Cargo Access to the International Space Station
SpaceX’s Falcon 9/Dragon spacecraft lifted off late Sunday on the first of a dozen scheduled commercial re-supply missions to the International Space Station, restoring a U. S. capability lacking since the 2011 retirement of NASA’s space shuttle fleet.
The Falcon 9 roared into orbit from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station,Fla., at 8:35 p.m, EDT.
Within 15 minutes, the Dragon capsule and its 1,000 pounds of food, clothing and scientific research equipment had separated from the Falcon 9 second stage and deployed its power generating solar arrays. The capsule should rendezvous with the space station early Wednesday.
Hawthorne,Calif., based SpaceX is carrying out the flight as part of a $1.6 billion Cargo Resupply Services contract signed with NASA in late 2008. Since the shuttle’s retirement in July 2011, theU. S.has relied on Russian, European and Japanese spacecraft to send clothing, food, spare parts, supplies and scientific research gear to the station. Dragon is the only spacecraft among the international fleet also equipped to return science materials and station equipment in need of refurbishment back to Earth.
On board the space station, commander Sunita Williams, of NASA, and Japanese astronaut Akihiko Hoshide will be ready to grapple Dragon using the Canadian robot arm during Wednesday’s rendezvous activities. Once captured by the robot arm, the Dragon will be docked to the station’s Harmony module.
The grapple time is scheduled for Wednesday at 7:23 a.m., EDT.
Under current scheduling, Dragon will remain berthed until Oct. 28. After departing, the capsule will make a same day parachute descent into the Pacific Ocean about 250 miles off theSouthern Californiacoast.
SpaceX recovery ships will be standing by. Dragon will be carrying just over 1,200 pounds of science samples and equipment that can be restored and launched again to the orbiting science lab.