SpaceX will launch a new resupply mission to the International Space Station early Friday (June 29), and you can watch the spaceflight action live online.
A two-stage SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket topped with the company’s robotic Dragon cargo capsule is scheduled to lift off from Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Friday at 5:42 a.m. EDT (0942 GMT). You can also watch it live directly via NASA TV, or via SpaceX’s website.
The Dragon is loaded with about 5,900 lbs. (2,700 kilograms) of supplies and scientific gear, including a floating droid with a face called CIMON, an investigation of nanotube-growth physics and an instrument designed to monitor the health of Earth vegetation from space. Space station crewmembers will unpack all this stuff when the freighter arrives at the orbiting lab early Monday morning (July 2).
Friday’s launch kicks off SpaceX’s 15th contracted cargo flight to the space station for NASA with its Dragon spacecraft. The California-based company holds a multibillion-dollar deal with the space agency to provide such delivery services, as does Northrop Grumman, which uses its Cygnus spacecraft and United Launch Alliance Atlas V rockets to get the job done. (Northrop Grumman recently acquired Orbital ATK, the Virginia-based company that signed the cargo contract with NASA.)
Both vehicles lifting off Friday are flight-proven; the Falcon 9’s first stage helped launch NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite in April, and the Dragon flew a cargo mission to the space station in July 2016, SpaceX representatives said. Such reuse is part of SpaceX’s plan to slash the cost of spaceflight, thereby making grand exploration goals such as Mars colonization economically feasible.
The Falcon 9 first stage is a “Block 4” variant, which SpaceX is phasing out in favor of the recently debuted “Block 5.” The booster is therefore not expected to make another landing after liftoff Friday.
Featured Image: Tony Gray/NASA