by Chris Tobias
SpaceX plans to launch its thirteenth resupply mission to the International Space Station from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral, Florida this Tuesday, December 12 at 11:46AM EST. A Falcon 9 rocket will carry an unmanned Dragon capsule into the black loaded with supplies, equipment and science experiments, including NASA’s Total and Spectral Solar Irradiance Sensor (TSIS-1) as well as a fiber optic payload. SpaceX will also attempt to recover the first stage of the Falcon 9 at the LZ-1 landing site at Cape Canaveral.
This is SpaceX’s first mission since indefinitely postponing the “Zuma” rocket launch that was to have taken place at LC-39A at Cape Canaveral last month. SpaceX indicated that it had some concerns stemming from a payload fairing test for another customer (the “Zuma” mission is supposed to launch a clandestine payload for an unnamed government agency), and that it was standing down until engineers completed their analysis. At this time that mission has yet to be rescheduled, but there are no such concerns for this launch.
According to SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk, Tuesday’s launch of the Dragon will also be the first time that both the orbital rocket and the capsule are being re-flown. SpaceX has successfully reused Falcon 9 boosters on multiple occasions, and has already sent a reused Dragon capsule to the ISS, but this will be the first mission for which both the rocket and the capsule are flight proven. SpaceX has made reusability a priority for several years now, both in an attempt to lower costs and in order to take a significant step toward the day when frequent, perhaps even daily, launches both to and beyond Low Earth Orbit are commonplace.
A crewed version of the Dragon space capsule is scheduled to make its first manned test flight in the latter half of the coming year as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, and as you probably well know by now, it’s this Crew Dragon that we hope will be named Serenity after the Firefly-class transport ship in Joss Whedon’s cult-classic space western TV series Firefly and motion picture Serenity. (If you want to know how you can help us make that happen, visit our Take Action page.)
In the meantime, the unmanned, flight proven version of the Dragon will begin its journey to the ISS on Tuesday, and you can watch the mission unfold live online. SpaceX’s webcast of the launch will go live at spacex.com and on the company’s YouTube channel approximately 20-30 minutes prior to liftoff.
Peace, love and rockets.