Wednesday, April 06, 2016

SpaceX Dragon to ferry inflatable module, experiments to space station

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. -- A first of its kind expandable space habitat module and several tons of science equipment are poised to lift-off a top a SpaceX Falcon rocket on April 8 on a two-day voyage to resupply the International Space Station, NASA confirmed during a news conference on Monday.

NASA officials said the Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) has set next Friday for the launch of its Falcon 9 at 4:43 p.m. EDT, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The commercial company's Dragon supply ship will arrive on orbit nearly ten minutes later, deploy its solar arrays, and perform a series of thruster burns as the spacecraft chases down its port-of-call.

"This is a launch that we've been waiting for quite sometime because it's really important to our overall ISS Research Program," chief scientist for the International Space Station Program Dr. Julie Robinson on Monday. "It has about 2000 kg of research equipment and supplies. The big driver on that amount of mass is that we have about 1400 kg of the BEAM module which will be tested on ISS -- that's the heavy one."

This 23rd flight of a Falcon 9 will mark the company's eighth operational Dragon launch under NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services contract. The launch will also mark the first flight of a Dragon supply craft since the June 2015 explosion of a Falcon 9 which destroyed its Dragon off America's Space Coast.

Two days following launch, Dragon will be grappled by the station's 57-foot robotic arm at about 7:00 a.m., and slowly maneuvered over to its docking port on the space facing side of the Tranquility module. Dragon will then dock to the orbital outpost three hours later.

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