The SpaceX Dragon spacecraft blasted off for its CRS-12 mission for NASA

SpaceX Dragon space cargo ship blasting off atop a Falcon 9 rocket to start its CRS-12 mission (Image courtesy SpaceX)
SpaceX Dragon space cargo ship blasting off atop a Falcon 9 rocket to start its CRS-12 mission (Image courtesy SpaceX)

A little while ago SpaceX Dragon spacecraft blasted off atop a Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral in its CRS-12 (Cargo Resupply Service 12) mission, also referred to as SPX-12. After just over ten minutes it separated successfully from the rocket’s last stage and went en route. This is the 12th mission for the Dragon spacecraft to resupply the International Space Station with various cargoes and then return to Earth, again with various cargoes.

The Dragon spacecraft’s cargo is a little more than 2,900 kilograms (about 6,400 lbs) between the pressurized and non-pressurized sections. There are about 220 kilograms (485 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.

The most important component of the cargo is the ISS-CREAM experiment, a new version of the Cosmic-Ray Energetics and Mass series (CREAM) series used in recent years for research on cosmic ray composition and for measuring their charge. So far, the instruments were transported at altitudes between 38 and 40 kilometers on balloons but the new ISS-CREAM version was built to be installed on the International Space Station.

At the altitudes around 410 kilometers at which it’s expected to work for 3 years, the ISS-CREAM experiment will be able to perform its cosmic ray measurements much better. Without the presence of the Earth’s atmosphere, there are no obstacles to cosmic rays, so the measurements are expected to be an order magnitude higher than the experiments using balloons.

Aboard the Dragon cargo spacecraft there’s also the Spaceborne Computer, a supercomputer built by Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) to experiment new solutions for the International Space Station’s computer systems. The problem is that in orbit any electronic equipment is affected by ionizing radiation that interferes with their operations.

For this reason, computers must be produced specifically through very long production processes with the result that they’re much less powerful than those on Earth. The solutions implemented by HPE in its Spaceborne Computer should allow to have an adequate computing power in space.

The Dragon Spacecraft is now en route to the International Space Station and everything proceeds normally. The arrival at the Station is scheduled for Wednesday: at about 7 AM UTC the Dragon is scheduled to be captured by the Station’s robotic arm. Meanwhile, the Falcon 9 rocket’s first stage landed successfully at Cape Canaveral but by now almost no one notices anymore.

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