A piece of big news for ‘space enthusiasts’ came on 5th December as SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket successfully took off from Cape Canaveral, Florida at 12:45 PM ET deploying the company’s Dragon cargo capsule into the orbit. Following the launch, the Falcon 9 touched down on SpaceX’s drone ship in the Atlantic. The Dragon cargo capsule is expected to meet up with the International Space Station (ISS) on Sunday, December 8th.
A Little Insight of the Mission
SpaceX launched its Dragon cargo capsule, brimmed with nearly 5,700 pounds of cargo and supplies for the crew of the International Space Station. It was SpaceX’s last resupply mission to the station for 2019. Following the flight, SpaceX achieved its signature rocket landings on a drone ship floating in the Atlantic Ocean.
It’s emblematic for SpaceX to perform an ocean landing after the launch to the ISS. Ideally, SpaceX tries to land the Falcon 9 rocket on a concrete landing pad on the solid ground. Usually, the rocket can pull off the ground landing as there is enough propellant left over after a fairly short trip to the lower Earth’s orbit (where the station lives). In short, there’s usually enough leftover propellant for SpaceX to turn around and head back to land. Ground landing consumes more propellant than landing in the ocean.
They had to the Ocean Landing
SpaceX attempted something new for this mission. After the Falcon 9 dropped off the Dragon capsule in orbit, the top portion of the rocket stayed in space longer than usual, performing a lengthy six-hour coast. It was a “thermal demonstration” that SpaceX performed for some of its other customers. During a press conference before the launch, the director of the Dragon mission management at SpaceX, Jessica Jensen, said, “I can’t give too much more detail about it”. She also stated that the maneuver was for “longer demonstration missions that we’re going to have to fly in the future”.
If the mission goes as per the plan, SpaceX’s Dragon capsule will meet with the International Space Station on Sunday, December 8th. It will deliver numerous science experiments to the ISS, including one that will study how flames spread in small spaces. Dragon is also carrying a Mexican-developed small satellite, which will be deployed from the space station for the first time. The satellite was created by students in Mexico to exhibit ways for satellites to communicate with one another in the orbit. The Dragon will reside at the ISS for about a month before returning to the Earth. It will carry back 3,800 pounds of cargo and scientific samples. Bryan Dansberry, the assistant program scientist at the International Space Station program science office, stated, “When it returns, it’ll be bringing back samples that represent about 54 investigations”.
It Will Be a Busy Month for ISS
Today’s launch will kick-start a busy traffic month for the ISS. After SpaceX makes it to the station, a Russian cargo ship will also thrust toward the ISS on December 6th. Then, Boeing will launch its new passenger spacecraft (the CST-100 Starliner) on December 19th. The spacecraft will not be carrying any astronauts; however, it will run through all the things, it’s supposed to do during future flights. It will try to dock with the station, stay there for four to five days, and then make the precarious journey back to Earth (hopefully intact). If all goes well, it will make way for Boeing’s next big mission with the Starliner sometime next year, which will transport its first passengers to the ISS.