SpaceX Launches Dragon Cargo Ship to Deliver New Solar Panels to Space Station - Spaceflight Now

SpaceX Launches Dragon Cargo Ship to Ship New Photo voltaic Panels to House Station – Spaceflight Now

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon cargo capsule climb into house from Florida on Saturday. Credit score: Stephen Clark/Spaceflight Now

SpaceX launched an all-new Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon cargo capsule Saturday from Kennedy House Middle on a mission to ship new photo voltaic panels, belated Thanksgiving treats, CubeSats and a cornucopia of experiments to the Worldwide House Station.

The 215-foot-tall (65-meter) Falcon 9 rocket roared to life and lifted off from pad 39A at 14:20:43 EST (1920:43 GMT). The industrial launch car broke the sound barrier in lower than a minute because it arced northeast from Florida’s House Coast, consistent with the house station’s orbital airplane.

The launch was timed for in regards to the second Earth’s rotation introduced the launch web site under the house station’s orbit, permitting the Dragon cargo capsule to dock on the complicated at 7:30 a.m. EST (1230 GMT) Sunday.

The mission began the drive of a model new Falcon 9 first stage booster – tail quantity B1076 in SpaceX’s fleet – which fired for 2 and a half minutes to propel the Dragon spacecraft into the higher environment. The Dragon capsule itself was additionally a brand new car — known as Dragon C211 — the third and ultimate deliberate Cargo Dragon in SpaceX’s fleet of new-generation Dragon spacecraft.

SpaceX has 4 human-rated Crew Dragon spacecraft in its stock, and final week the corporate introduced it should construct one other Crew Dragon for astronaut missions beginning in 2024.

The booster stage re-entered the environment and landed on a drone ship the scale of a soccer area about 300 kilometers northeast of Cape Canaveral, finishing its maiden voyage into house. The Falcon 9’s higher stage gave the Dragon cargo ship sufficient velocity to enter low Earth orbit, permitting the supply freighter to separate from its launch car practically 12 minutes into the mission.

Onboard digicam views confirmed the Dragon spacecraft flying away from its rocket after which firing Draco thrusters to organize its propulsion system for a sequence of engine burns to match orbits with the house station. The cargo ship then opened its nosecone to disclose a docking mechanism and navigation sensors wanted for the rendezvous and docking with the orbiting complicated on Sunday.

SpaceX canceled the primary launch try of the resupply mission on Tuesday because of rain and cloud cowl on the Florida spaceport. The Falcon 9 rocket remained on the launch pad at Kennedy awaiting the following launch alternative on Saturday. SpaceX was unable to launch the cargo mission across the Thanksgiving vacation, a interval of busy journey in america, as a result of the Federal Aviation Administration needed to make sure that the airspace is prepared for industrial air visitors.

After docking on Sunday, the house station astronauts will open hatches and start unpacking cargo contained in the pressurized compartment of the Dragon spacecraft.

Among the many meals inside: Ice cream, spicy inexperienced beans, cranberry desserts, almond pumpkin pie and sweet corn for a belated Thanksgiving feast.

The mission is SpaceX’s twenty sixth Dragon cargo flight beneath a sequence of multibillion-dollar Industrial Resupply Providers contracts with NASA. It’s the sixth SpaceX cargo mission beneath the most recent CRS contract, carrying the Dragon cargo program by way of the CRS-35 mission deliberate for someday in 2026.

The CRS-26 mission is full of about 7,700 kilos (3.5 tons) of {hardware}, provides, and experiments for the house station and the crew of seven dwelling aboard the complicated. The most important a part of the cargo is NASA’s second pair of recent photo voltaic panels to reinforce the house station’s energy system.

The cargo on the CRS-26 mission contains clothes, meals and sanitary provides for the house station crew, plus a wide range of experiments, together with an illustration aimed toward rising dwarf tomatoes on the orbiting laboratory. Earlier plant progress experiments, a part of the “Veggie” sequence of scientific investigations, have centered on rising inexperienced leafy greens to offer astronauts with a supply of recent meals. The experiments additionally acquire information for future expeditions in house, similar to flights to the Moon and Mars, the place astronauts can develop their very own meals.

“We’re testing tomatoes, wanting on the results of sunshine spectrum on how properly the crop grows, how tasty and nutritious the tomatoes are, and the microbial exercise on fruit and vegetation,” stated Gioia Massa, scientist and director of NASA’s Life Sciences Challenge. investigator for the tomato experiments, known as Veg-05. “We’re additionally investigating the general impression of rising, tending and consuming crops on the crew’s behavioral well being. All of this may present invaluable information for future house exploration.”

The CRS-26 mission may also ship the Moon Microscope, a package containing a conveyable hand-held microscope that may assist astronauts acquire medical pictures of their very own blood samples after which ship the info to the bottom for evaluation by flight surgeons. The mission additionally features a technical demo experiment known as Extrusion that may check how liquid resin in microgravity can create shapes and types unimaginable to make on Earth, because of the affect of gravity. “The power to make use of these shapes may allow the development in house of constructions similar to house stations, photo voltaic panels and gear,” says NASA.

One other experiment on the CRS-26 mission will examine how yogurt, fermented milk and a yeast-based beverage can be utilized to supply vitamins to keep up crew well being throughout long-duration house missions.

Eight small CubeSats are stowed contained in the Dragon spacecraft for NASA, the Canadian House Company and corporations in Italy and Taiwan. The CubeSats will likely be transferred by the house station crew to the Japanese airlock for launch into low Earth orbit utilizing a Nanoracks launcher.

SpaceX’s twenty sixth resupply mission can also be carrying coaching gear, life assist {hardware} and a brand new built-in GPS and inertial navigation system unit to the 450-ton analysis outpost. The Dragon spacecraft’s rear cargo bay holds the 2 deployed photo voltaic arrays to be put in exterior the house station.

“Crucially for us are the 2 new photo voltaic arrays that we are going to spacewalk in late November and early December to put in and deploy aboard the Worldwide House Station,” stated Joel Montalbano, NASA’s ISS program supervisor. “Along with the 2 photo voltaic arrays to be delivered on SpaceX-26, we’ve got some life assist gear being delivered, some GPS {hardware}, some coaching {hardware} and a few medical gear. This mission will say docked to the Worldwide House Station for about 45 days. .. All in all, we’re wanting ahead to an thrilling project.”

Whereas crew members contained in the house station unpack cargo from Dragon’s inside cabin, the station’s Canadian robotic arm will attain into the cargo ship’s trunk to take away the 2 new photo voltaic arrays. The arrays are wound up on spools and collectively weigh greater than a ton. Two astronauts will enterprise exterior the house station for a few spacewalks to assist deploy the brand new photo voltaic arrays.

The primary two ISS Roll-Out Photo voltaic Arrays, or iROSA items, have been launched in June 2021 on SpaceX’s CRS-22 resupply mission. They have been deployed throughout a pair of spacewalks later that month on the P6 section on the port facet, or far left, of the station’s photo voltaic array. One of many iROSA arrays launched on CRS-26 will go on the port P4 truss section simply contained in the P6 part, whereas the opposite photo voltaic panel will likely be mounted on the starboard S4 truss space.

The iROSA arrays are prolonged over six of the station’s eight current photo voltaic array wings, slanted at angles to partially cowl the older photo voltaic arrays. Totally deployed, the deployed photo voltaic panels stretch 63 ft lengthy and 20 ft huge (19 x 6 meters), roughly half the size and half the width of the station’s present photo voltaic arrays. Regardless of their smaller dimension, every of the brand new arrays will generate roughly the identical quantity of electrical energy as every of the unique photo voltaic panels.

A mounting bracket plugs the brand new arrays into the station’s energy ducts and rotary joints, which maintain the photo voltaic wings pointed on the solar because the spacecraft races round Earth at greater than 17,000 mph. Previous to the CRS-26 mission, astronauts accomplished spacewalks to put in the mounting brackets to obtain the brand new photo voltaic panels.

The Worldwide House Station has eight energy channels, every fed with electrical energy generated from a photo voltaic array wing that extends from the station’s truss backbone. The unique photo voltaic arrays have been launched on 4 house shuttles from 2000 to 2009. As anticipated, photo voltaic array effectivity has degraded over time.

When all six iROSA items are deployed on the station, the ability system will have the ability to generate 215 kilowatts of electrical energy to assist no less than one other decade of science operations. The improve may also accommodate new industrial modules deliberate for launch to the house station.

Two ISS Roll-Out Photo voltaic Array items contained in the house station’s processing facility final yr on the Kennedy House Middle. Credit score: NASA/Frank Michaux

This is a breakdown of the CRS-26 cargo manifest, supplied by NASA:

• Whole load: 7,777 kilos (3,528 kg)

  • 2,636 lb (1,196 kg) unpressurized payload (iROSA)
  • 2,341 kilos (1,062 kilograms) of crew materials
  • 2,066 kilos (937 kg) of scientific analysis
  • 653 kilos (296 kg) of car {hardware}
  • 55 kilos (25 kg) of spacewalk gear
  • 26 kilos (12 kg) of computing sources

The brand new deployable photo voltaic panels have been developed by Deployable House Techniques in Goleta, Calif., beneath contract with Boeing, which oversees house station building and upkeep work beneath a separate contract with NASA. Deployable House Techniques was acquired final yr by Redwire, an area infrastructure firm based mostly in Jacksonville, Florida.

The photo voltaic arrays give the house station one among its most important mid-life upgrades since NASA and its worldwide companions accomplished large-scale meeting of the complicated in 2011. The six new photo voltaic array wings, together with 24 new lithium-ion batteries launched for the station on a sequence of Japanese resupply missions, will assist to make sure that the lab’s energy system can assist continued operations till 2030.

The ultimate pair of deployable photo voltaic arrays is scheduled to launch on SpaceX’s CRS-28 cargo mission subsequent yr.

On the finish of the CRS-26 mission, the reusable Dragon capsule will detach from the station and head for a parachute-assisted splash off the coast of Florida in early January with a number of tons of cargo.

Saturday’s launch was the 54th SpaceX mission thus far in 2022. SpaceX goals to launch half a dozen Falcon 9 rockets from Florida and California by the top of December to achieve the corporate’s purpose of 60 missions this yr.

The following Falcon 9 launch is scheduled for Wednesday, November 30, with a industrial lunar lander into house for the Japanese firm ispace. The privately developed spacecraft will try and grow to be the primary industrial mission to make a mushy touchdown on the moon subsequent yr.

E mail the writer.

Comply with Stephen Clark on Twitter: @StephenClark1.

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