If we didn’t know better, we’d think SpaceX is celebrating Hanukkah in grand style. After all, it seems like they’re lighting a very big candle every day now!
With today’s launch of the SSO-A SmallSat Express, which was originally scheduled to launch from Vandenberg AFB in California on November 19, SpaceX is now on the verge of back-to-back launches on two consecutive days from two opposite coasts. That’s because the 16th resupply mission to the International Space Station as part of the Commercial Resupply Services contract that SpaceX has with NASA is scheduled to lift off from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at Kennedy Space Center on Tuesday, December 4 at 1:38 PM EST (18:38 UTC).
The CRS-16 Mission Patch (courtesy Wikipedia)
At this time the weather appears to be favorable for the mission, which will have an instantaneous launch window. The Falcon 9 booster that will be used for this mission is a brand new Block 5 rocket. Its first stage will land at Landing Zone 1 (LZ-1) at Cape Canaveral.
The Falcon 9 will carry a Dragon spacecraft loaded with 5,673 lbs. (2,573 kg) of supplies, scientific research equipment, experimental hardware and scientific investigations (a.k.a. experiments) that will aid the crews of Expeditions 57 and 58 in their work aboard the ISS. The timing of the launch is especially interesting since the Expedition 58 crew also launched earlier today aboard a Soyuz rocket. If all goes well, they will be aboard the ISS in time to assist the crew of Expedition 57 with the capture and unloading of the Dragon when it arrives at the station on December 6. Operating the Canadarm2 to grapple the Dragon and guide it to the station will be Expedition 57 Commander Alexander Gerst of Germany, who will surely feel like he’s receiving the biggest St. Nikolaus’ Day gift ever!
The Dragon is expected to remain berthed at the ISS for approximately five weeks. After the crew unpacks its current cargo and loads it full of completed experiments and other materials that are to be sent back to Earth, it will undock (if everything remains on schedule) on January 13, 2019, at which time it will return to Earth and splash down for recovery in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Baja, California.
Those who want to watch the CRS-16 launch live can log onto SpaceX’s webcast, which should begin approximately 20 minutes before liftoff at spacex.com and on the company’s YouTube channel.
Peace, love and rockets…
“Don’t throw the past away
You might need it some rainy day
Dreams can come true again
When everything old is new again”
Those words are from Peter Allen’s 1974 song “Everything Old is New Again,” but in a lot of ways, they’re describing how SpaceX is approaching the way it does business today.
NASA’s official CRS-15 mission patch.
Let’s not be misunderstood. SpaceX is employing a lot of new technology and a lot of innovative techniques that are revolutionizing the space industry. But one of those new techniques is the reuse of the boosters and vehicles that contain its new technology, and that concept– using old rockets and spaceships for new missions– is something that is rather innovative in and of itself. Admittedly, even that isn’t a completely new idea– NASA’s Space Shuttle program relied on the same concept to a certain extent– but SpaceX is taking it to new heights.
When SpaceX launches its fifteenth commercial resupply mission to the International Space Station at 5:41am EDT (9:41 UTC) on June 29, there will be a lot about CRS-15, from its Falcon 9 booster to its Dragon capsule and even the launch complex itself, that will feature something old that’s been given new purpose. The Falcon 9 that will launch CRS-15 into the black was previously flown during the TESS mission two months ago. The Dragon capsule that it will carry was used during SpaceX’s ninth resupply mission to the ISS back in 2016. And Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, the place from which the mission will liftoff, has a storied history that goes all the way back to the Titan launches in the 1960’s. Continue Reading
Today’s postponement of the SpaceX launch of the DSCOVR satellite until Tuesday, February 10 (weather concerns necessitated a scrub of this evening’s attempt), means tomorrow will be twice as shiny for fans of SpaceX and the work they do out in the black!
That’s because the crew of Expedition 42 on board the International Space Station closed the hatch on the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft earlier today after packing away all the essential gear, experiments and data that will be sent back to Earth in her belly. Dragon will be detached from the ISS’ Harmony module before being released by Canadarm2 on Tuesday afternoon, and she’ll splash down off the Pacific coast of Baja, California for recovery by SpaceX engineers a few hours before sunset. You can watch the NASA TV coverage of the undocking of Dragon beginning at 1:45 pm EST tomorrow.
And then, if all goes according to plan, the nightcap will be the launch of the Falcon 9 carrying DSCOVR into orbit, with the potentially historic recovery of the booster rocket on board SpaceX’s drone-barge in the Atlantic. At present the launch is targeted for 6:05pm EST tomorrow, with coverage of the launch live online at spacex.com. (If there is yet another delay, the back-up launch window would be Wednesday, February 11 at 6:03pm EST.)
Welcome back, Dragon! Godspeed Falcon 9 and DSCOVR!