SpaceX readies for second launch of the year, this time from Florida
When SpaceX’s second orbital launch of the year blasts off from its new Florida launchpad this weekend, it will be carrying a 5,500-pound payload of cutting-edge medical, climate and Earth science research materials to NASA’s International Space Station.SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket stands at its new East Coast base, Kennedy
Space Center Launch Complex 39-A, ready for a Saturday trip into orbit.
The launchpad is the site of former Apollo and space shuttle launches.
If successful, this will be the Hawthorne commercial rocket maker’s 10th space station resupply mission for NASA.
Officials with SpaceX, fully named Space Exploration Technologies Corp., said they expect to launch twice monthly through the rest of the year
as they play catch-up with delayed contracted deliveries.The Falcon 9 rocket is expected to leave at 10:01 a.m. Saturday
if weather permits and if the Federal Aviation Administration sanctions the mission. It is flying from its new pad 39A at Cape Canaveral’s Kennedy Space Center, originally built for the Apollo program and later used to hoist space shuttles.
The company’s former East Coast launchpad was badly damaged in a Sept. 1 explosion caused by chilled propellant overwhelming a holding tank as the rocket fueled up for a prelaunch static-fire test.
A Sunday static-fire test for this weekend’s planned launch was successful.
The two-stage rocket is fitted with a Dragon spacecraft at its nose that’s filled with nearly three tons of cargo. The load is set to be handed off to six astronauts and cosmonauts from the U.S., Russia and Europe living aboard the station’s orbiting laboratory as part of Expedition 50.
NASA’s Shane Kimbrough and European Space Agency’s Thomas Pesquet “will use the station’s robotic arm to capture Dragon when it arrives on station,” according to a NASA statement. “The spacecraft will be berthed to the Earth-facing port on the Harmony module.”
Research supplies awaiting delivery include cancer-fighting antibodies, a device that analyzes bacterial mutations, stem cells, a lightning sensor, a next-generation spacecraft navigation system, a machine that can measure stratospheric gases like ozone, and materials for a study trying to understand how humans can better regenerate tissue.
The company’s West Coast launchpad, at Vandenberg Air Force Base near Lompoc, was the site of a flawless post-explosion return to flight on Jan. 14. That mission, a communications satellite delivery for Iridium Communications Inc., was the first of a series of satellite deliveries for the company.
After that January delivery, the Falcon 9’s first-stage booster returned to Earth and landed near San Diego on an at-sea barge named Just Read the Instructions. A tugboat then carried it to its parking and off-loading site at the Port of Los Angeles in San Pedro’s outer harbor.
The company expanded its leased parking spot in the port earlier this month. It plans to recover boosters from at least seven more West Coast flights through 2018. The equipment will be held in San Pedro until it’s ready to be transported by truck to Hawthorne or Texas facilities for testing.
The rocket equipment is intended for reuse on a later flight, part of SpaceX CEO Elon Musk’s plan to make spaceflight affordable. This weekend’s planned launch also has a secondary mission of delivering the booster stage intact to a landing pad.