SpaceX plans to use a recycled Dragon cargo craft in today’s scheduled 5:55pm launch from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. Mounted atop a Falcon 9 rocket, Dragon will travel to the International Space Station where it will bring food, supplies, and science to astronauts there.
The launch is taking place at historic Launch Pad #39A, home to many Apollo and Space Shuttle launches. SpaceX’s launch will be the pad’s 100th launch.
Known as the CRS-11 cargo resupply mission, SpaceX is using a Dragon capsule that was used once before for CRS-4 which brought materials to and back from the International Space Station in 2014.
Today’s scheduled CRS-11 launch is bringing 3,800 pounds of pressurized cargo and 3,500 pounds of unpressurized cargo in it’s “trunk”. The materials will be used by Expedition 52 and 53 crews currently on the International Space Station (ISS).
This mission will be the eleventh cargo delivery to the ISS that SpaceX has performed as part of its NASA Commercial Resupply Services Contract.
Beyond basic supplies and tools, CRS-11 is bringing exciting new science to the ISS including ROSA, NICER, and SEXTANT.
ROSA, the Roll-Out Solar Array, is a joint Air Force / commercial technology experiment involving solar panels. Stored in the trunk of the Dragon, a robotic arm will remove and roll-out the panels once Dragon arrives at the USS. Rolling open like a window shade, scientists will study its durability in the extreme environment of space. After testing the deployment, durability, and retraction of the flexible array, the robotic arm will return it to the trunk of the Dragon. While the pressurized compartment of Dragon will return to Earth, the trunk will burn-up upon re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere, taking the disposable array ROSA with it.
NICER is short for Neutron star Interior Composition Explorer. This scientific payload will study the physics of neutron stars, which are the stars left behind after supernova explosions.
SEXTANT, short for Station Explorer for X-Ray Timing and Navigation Technology, will explore whether pulsars can be used as natural beacons to help navigate spacecraft through the Solar System.
Weatherboy will FacebookLive stream the launch today at http://facebook.com/theWeatherboy
Moments after launching, the Falcon9 first stage rocket will return to the Florida Space coast, with a scheduled landing set for Landing Zone 1. Residents nearby will hear a sonic boom as the high-speed rocket returns to earth after sending Dragon to space.