A few hours ago SpaceX Dragon spacecraft blasted off on a Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral in its CRS-8 (Cargo Resupply Service) mission, also referred to as SPX-8. After about twelve minutes it successfully separated from the rocket’s last stage and went en route. This is the 8th of 12 missions that include sending the Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station with various cargoes and then return to Earth, again with various cargoes.
The CRS-8 mission is the first for SpaceX since the June 2015 mishap and this time the company used a new version of its Falcon 9 rocket called 1.2 or Enhanced or Full Thrust. The first stage controlled landing tests continue and until yesterday there was no success yet on an automated marine platform. In this case, waiting for it there was the autonomous spaceport drone called “Of course I still love you”. This time the landing succeeded perfectly, another step forward for the first stage reuse!
The Dragon spacecraft’s cargo is a little more than 3.1 tons (almost 7,000 lbs) between the pressurized and non-pressurized sections. There are about 547 kg (about 1,205 lbs) of food and other supplies for the International Space Station crew but most of the cargo consists of instruments, hardware and various other materials needed for science experiments and research conducted aboard the Station.
The non-pressurized section is occupied by the BEAM module (Bigelow Expandable Activity Module), an experimental inflatable module that Bigelow Aerospace has been testing for years. After the versions sent into orbit in the last decade, just over three years ago the company signed a contract with NASA to build the module to be tested on the International Space Station.
The BEAM module will be tested as part of the International Space Station even if it won’t be regularly used by the crew. However, for at least two years it will be kept in the Station’s standard conditions of pressurization to evaluate its performances. If it passes the test they’ll use it for future modules of space stations but also of possible orbital hotels.
Other experiments include 20 mice that will be used for research on muscle and bone atrophy in microgravity. They’ll be used to test drugs that could prevent muscle loss and to collect more data for osteoporosis research.
The Dragon spacecraft is now en route to the International Space Station and everything proceeds normally. The arrival to the Station is scheduled for Sunday: around 11:00 AM UTL the Dragon will be captured by the Station’s robotic arm.
SpaceX published a video of the Falcon 9 first stage controlled landing.