SpaceX will attempt to reach another milestone with launching their cargo Dragon capsule on a third flight to the International Space Station (ISS) atop of a previously flown block 5 Falcon 9 booster. This will also be the first time that the block 5 configuration of a re-used booster will be utilized for a NASA mission.
The launch attempt, currently slated for 6:01:56pm EDT, comes after multiple delays during the static fire attempt to test the booster prior to mating of the Dragon capsule. According to SpaceX, a liquid oxygen leak was detected during the first attempt at a static fire causing a reevaluation of the booster. This led to a full booster inspection and necessary repairs to be made. The static fire to successfully occured Friday ahead of the Wednesday launch attempt.
The booster being used was previously used to support a Dragon used for the CRS-17 mission to the ISS just over 2 months ago. Although it is not a record refurbishment for reflight of a Falcon 9 booster, that belongs to the side boosters of the Falcon Heavy used for the Arabsat-6A and re-used for the STP-2 mission last month, it is a very rapid turn-around time. This launch will be the 44th attempted recovery of a booster, the 24th reflight of a Falcon 9 booster, and the 7th mission utilizing a reflown Dragon capsule.
On board of Dragon is approximately 5,000lbs of science experiments and supplies for the 6 crewmembers currently aboard the ISS. Among the cargo is a new International Docking Adapter. This new adapter will travel with Dragon to the ISS in the unpressurized trunk portion and will require the utilization of the remotely controlled Canadarm and a spacewalk for installation. This new adapter will be used to support commercial crew flights to the ISS as well as open up the market of commercial international use of the ISS. It will also support continued research and a regular rotation of crew members.
Flying in the pressurized portion of Dragon is multiple science payloads for different commercial providers. One of those payloads is the “Slime in Space” project provided by Nickelodeon, led by Dr. Mark Weislogel of Portland State University. This experiment will study slime as a non-Newtonian fluid in a microgravity environment which means that it is a fluid that responds to stress in an unpredictable manner. This experiment is being conducted with the intention of creating educational videos and material to engage school-aged viewers with the world of fluid dynamics, specifically how fluids respond differently in space than here on Earth.
One of the most fascinating payloads, provided Techshot, Inc, is the BioFabrication Facility (BFF), a 3D printer that is capable of manufacturing human tissue. Sending this bioprinter is the first step in determining if such a service could one day be beneficial not only to Earth related causes such as a shortage of organs available for transplants, but also astronauts that may one day endure long-duration missions to the Lunar Gateway and beyond.
With one launch attempt already scrubbed due to inclement weather, SpaceX will try once more this evening to achieve a launch with an instantaneous window at 6:01:56pm EDT.
Be sure to tune into the live NASA or SpaceX webcasts linked below that will go live just about 15 minutes prior to launch!