Just three days after sending 10 communications satellites in orbit from California, SpaceX will launch again, this time outside Cape Canaveral, Florida. The company is launching one of its pre-flown Falcon 9 rockets, which will send 5,800 pounds of scientific supplies and experiments to the International Space Station. That charge will be mounted on top of the rocket inside one of SpaceX's Dragon capsules, which also flew to the ISS once before.
This is the second time that NASA relies on a Falcon 9 rocket used to carry the equipment to the space station, and it is the third time that a used Dragon cargo capsule also carries supplies to the ISS. But despite the recycled hardware of today's mission, SpaceX will not land its Falcon 9 after launch today. SpaceX said the decision to skip a landing had to do with the fact that this Falcon 9 in particular had already flown once before for another refueling mission to the space station in August. Then, the company decided that it would be better to collect data about this trip during the fall and landing of the rocket in the ocean than to attempt a full recovery.
This is the second time that NASA trusts a used Falcon 9 rocket
"This seemed like a very good opportunity to fly a little more towards the limits," said Jessica Jensen, director of mission management for Dragon at SpaceX, during a press conference about yesterday's mission. "And in that way, our engineers can collect additional data, not only during the reentry, but also during the landing, which will be useful for the future."
In fact, today's flight marks the third consecutive SpaceX mission that will not attempt to recover the vehicle. The company is in the middle of transitioning to the latest version of its Falcon 9 rocket, called Block 5, which will facilitate the reuse of vehicles in the future. Block 5 will include a series of upgrades to the rocket, such as higher performance engines, titanium mesh fins and retractable landing legs. These changes will facilitate rapid reuse, according to the company. The first block 5 rocket is scheduled for launch in late April, sending a communications satellite to Bangladesh.
Meanwhile, today's mission is focused on simply taking the load into space. On board the Dragon capsule there are a number of new technologies for ISS, including an instrument that will be located outside the station to analyze thunderstorms on Earth and a research platform that will expose objects such as tissues and plants to gravity artificial. Once Hawk 9 is launched, the Dragon's capsule will remain in orbit and will crawl closer to the ISS, before meeting the station early Wednesday morning. Once all your supplies have been discharged, the capsule will remain connected for approximately 30 days.
Robonaut 2, before joining their legs. Image: NASA
The Dragon's capsule also has the task of carrying a precious cargo to Earth once its time in the space station is over. When the capsule leaves in May, it will have NASA's old Robonaut 2 on board, a humanoid robot that has been on the ISS since 2011. Robonaut 2 urgently needs repairs on Earth; It has not worked since the astronauts tried to join the robot's legs in 2014. NASA plans to make Robonaut 2 work again and then return it to the space station in the future.
The release of Falcon 9 today is scheduled to take off at exactly 4:30 PM ET. The flight has an instant launch window, so the rocket has to take off at that moment or wait until tomorrow. SpaceX has a backup release date on Tuesday at 4:08 PM ET should that happen. Today's climate seems to cooperate for a flight; There is an 80 percent chance that the conditions are favorable for the launch, with the possibility of a little rain and clusters.
NASA plans to begin live coverage of the launch at 4PM ET, and SpaceX coverage will begin about 20 minutes before takeoff at 4:10 PM ET. Then, you will have multiple viewing options to see this Falcon 9 arrive in space this afternoon.