NASA and SpaceX are making final preparations for a cargo mission that will supply about three metric tons to the International Space Station.
This “CRS-21” mission is the 21st cargo supply mission that SpaceX will launch for NASA overall. But it is the first under a new supply contract that will run until 2024, and it will be the first to use an advanced “cargo dragon 2” vehicle to orbit food, to be circulated in the lab of water, science Will be for experiments and other materials.
The new cargo vehicle is a modified version of the Crew Dragon spacecraft that has flown humans to the space station twice in May and November this year. The cargo variant lacks seats and cockpit controls, a life support system, and Super Draco thrusters that are used as an emergency escape system when problems occur during launch.
Compared to the first SpaceX cargo vehicle, the Cargo Dragon 2 has a dozen powered lockers for science experiments, twice as many as before. It is designed to recover and read for more frequent repeat flights than its predecessor, and to autonomously dock with the station rather than needing to hold the vehicle by the robot’s hand and attach to the port Has the potential.
After its launch and arrival at the space station, two dragon vehicles will be connected in the laboratory for the first time. This is because Crew Dragon Flexibility, Which was launched on 15 November to carry four astronauts, docked at the station and would remain for about five more months.
It is also worth noting that NASA continues to be more comfortable with reusing spacecraft and rockets built by SpaceX. The Falcon 9 first stage being used for this mission has already flown three times. SpaceX has flown to NASA in all earlier missions, the space agency has never allowed the company to use first-stage boosters that have flown more than once. In the photos above, the dirty and soot booster creates a contrasting position with the shiny, white cargo Dragon 2 spacecraft.
The mission is scheduled to launch from Kennedy Space Center’s launch complex 39A in Florida at 11:39 pm ET (16:39 UTC) on Saturday. Weather is a concern, both at the launch site and for the recovery of the first stage of the Falcon 9 rocket. The official forecast calls for a 50 percent probability of favorable conditions at the launch site on Saturday. The weather is better for the back-up launch occasion on Sunday, so the launch may well slip one day.
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