A few hours ago SpaceX Dragon spacecraft blasted off atop a Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral in its CRS-9 (Cargo Resupply Service 9) mission, also referred to as SPX-9. After almost ten minutes it separated successfully from the rocket’s last stage and went en route. This is the ninth mission to send the Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station with various cargoes and then return to Earth, again with various cargoes.
The CRS-9 is the second mission for SpaceX after the June 2015 mishap and the Falcon 9 rocket version called 1.2 or Enhanced or Full Thrust is now the one used for all of Elon Musk’s company launches. The first stage controlled landing tests continue. In this case, instead of an automated marine platform, the landing took place on the mainland, in the designated area identified as Landing Zone 1 at Cape Canaveral and was successful.
The Dragon spacecraft’s cargo is of little more than 2.2 tons (almost 5,000 lbs) between the pressurized and the non-pressurized section. There are about 370 kg (815 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 to science experiments and research conducted aboard the Station.
A very important part of the cargo is the International Docking Adapter-2 (IDA-2), a key component of the new docking system that will be used by the new American spacecraft that are scheduled to enter service in 2017 or 2018. The IDA-1 was supposed to get connected to one of two Pressurized Mating Adapters (PMA) on the Station’s Harmony module but it was destroyed along with the Dragon in the explosion of the Falcon 9 rocket in June 2015.
As always, various scientific experiments with biological and / or medical purposes are transported to the International Space Station. In the CRS-9 mission a particularly interesting one is the Biomolecule Sequencer, a miniaturized device for DNA sequencing. It will be the first device of that type tested in orbit, where it will ebused to identify microbes present on the Station. It can help possible medical diagnosis and its developments will help to identify possible DNA-based life forms if they existed elsewhere in the solar system.
The Dragon spacecraft is now en route to the International Space Station, and everything proceeds normally. The arrival to the Station is scheduled for Wednesday: Around 11:00 UTC the Dragon will be captured by the Station’s robotic arm.
Here is the part of the SpaceX webcast showing the Falcon 9 rocket first stage’s landing.