by Chris Tobias
When a Falcon 9 rocket lifts off from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida in the waning minutes of March 6, it will mark not only the twentieth commercial resupply mission to the International Space Station, but also the final flight of SpaceX’s original, uncrewed Dragon capsule.
CRS-20 will be the final mission under the original Commercial Resupply Services contract that was signed with NASA in 2008, but the overwhelming success of the program has already led to a second contract, which will include not only SpaceX, but also Sierra Nevada and Northrop Grumman (formerly Orbital ATK).
Liftoff for CRS-20 is scheduled NET Friday, March 6 at 11:50 PM EST (Saturday, March 7, 4:50 UTC).
The Falcon 9 booster for this mission also flew the nineteenth commercial resupply mission to the ISS, and the Dragon capsule for this mission is a veteran of both the CRS-10 and CRS-16 resupply missions. SpaceX plans to recover the first stage of the Falcon 9 at Landing Zone 1 (LZ-1) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
Dragon will deliver nearly three tons of supplies and science investigations to the ISS, and will eventually return with a similar cargo at the completion of its mission.
This will be the final mission of SpaceX’s “D1” version of Dragon (the original, uncrewed capsule that features prominently in Take Back the Sky’s logo). All subsequent missions will be flown with Crew Dragon, which will soon become the first US spaceship to launch from American soil with American astronauts aboard since the end of the Space Shuttle program in 2011.
It is Crew Dragon that we hope Elon Musk and SpaceX will name after Serenity, the Firefly-class transport ship in Joss Whedon’s short-lived but much beloved science-fiction television series Firefly and critically acclaimed motion picture Serenity. With a crewed demonstration flight of Crew Dragon (DM-2) likely to happen no later than this summer, our campaign to lobby for the name is obviously in its endgame, so if you agree that the ship should have this name, please send a card or letter to SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk and/or president and COO Gwynne Shotwell and tell them so ASAP.
And if you’d like to watch the final, historic flight of the OG Dragon, SpaceX’s webcast of the mission should go live approximately 20 minutes before launch at spacex.com and on the company’s YouTube channel.
Peace, love and rockets…