SpaceX CRS-4 Mission Launches Successfully

crs4 mission patchAt 1:52:04am EDT today a SpaceX Falcon 9 lifted off from Cape Canaveral carrying a Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station for the fourth CRS mission under the NASA’s commercial cargo program.  The launch originally scheduled for yesterday had to be scrubbed due to weather constrains. Unlike the recent satellite launches which had long launch windows SpaceX had to liftoff exactly on time or perform a 24 hour scrub.

Following a smooth countdown despite more weather concerns near the launchpad the rocket was able to liftoff to begin a 2 day journey to the station.

160 seconds after liftoff the first stage completed it’s job and dropped back to earth where despite not having landing legs SpaceX will perform a series of tests as they have before in an attempt to land the rocket. We learnt today during a NASA briefing that SpaceX has been sharing the data from these tests with NASA as they were planning to perform some very similar tests for landing on Mars and other planetary bodies. Instead of spending the money on there own tests they are providing assets for SpaceX to help track the first stage as it returns.

Once the stages had separated the second stage’s single engine propelled the rocket the rest of the way to orbit where the Dragon spacecraft was successfully deployed. Once in orbit Dragon deployed it’s solar arrays and began it’s journey to the station.

Below are some of the payloads that are being carried among the 5,000 pounds of supplies that Dragon is taking to the station.

3D Printing in Zero-G Experiment – Will demonstrate 3D printing technology in space, created by Made In Space Inc this will test out the capabilities of a 3D printer in micro-gravity something that has only been done in 30 seconds stints until now. Made In Space are already working on another bigger version of the printer which they hope to launch next year this could enable the station crew to print replacement parts instead of waiting for a visiting vehicle to bring them.

ISS-Rapid Scatterometer (ISS-RapidSat) – This is being carried in the trunk and will be attached to the outside of the station by the robot arm.  The ISS-RapidSat will be used to monitor ocean surface wind speed and direction.

Rodent Research-1 – For the first time SpaceX will be carrying live animals to the station, this has been made possible by the inclusion of SpaceX’s first Environmental Control and Live Support System (EGLSS) system.  This experiment will allow researches to determine the long-term effects of micro-gravity on mammals.  Half the rodents will be returned when CRS-4 lands, the others will remain on the station and will return on the next mission CRS-5.

Below are screen grabs of the launch

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Exciting times in Space

A lot has happened in Space or related to Space recently and the future is looking very bright.

Below is a summary of some of the recent news and upcoming events.

SpaceX and Boeing awarded CCtCap contracts – We now have two companies contracted to build manned spacecraft to deliver crew to the ISS.  Currently only two other countries have the ability to do this.  See my full article on the awards here.

ULA and Blue Origin announce BE-4 engine – Following pressure from various sources ULA have announced they are going to partner with Blue Origin to build the engine which will allow them to move away from the Russian RD-180 engine for Atlas.  Full article include specs can be found here.

Mars Orbiters arriving soon – This Sunday NASA’s Mars Maven orbiter will be arriving at the planet and next Wednesday India’s Mars Orbiter Mission spacecraft is also expected to arrive.  They will join three other orbiters currently at Mars and the two active Rovers on the surface.

ESA Rosetta Lander Philae has a landing site – The European Space Agency has announced the landing site for Philae which is part of the Rosetta mission.  This will be the first time a vehicle has landed on the surface of a Comet.  For more information on the mission check out the excellent ESA Blog for Rosetta.

First 3D Printer heading to space – Early tomorrow morning SpaceX’s CRS-4 mission is scheduled to lift off, on board will be the first 3D printer to go into space.  The possibilities this opens up for the future are immeasurable.  For more information on the printer check out this page.  We will be posting an update tomorrow morning following the launch of CRS-4.