A few hours ago the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft blasted off atop a Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral in its CRS-14 (Cargo Resupply Service 14) mission, also referred to as SPX-14. After just over ten minutes it separated successfully from the rocket’s last stage and went en route. This is the 14th mission for the Dragon spacecraft to resupply the International Space Station with various cargoes and then return to Earth, again with various cargoes.
The CRS-13 mission keeps SpaceX’s reuse policy in collaboration with NASA. The Dragon was launched on a rocket with a used first stage, the second consecutive time for a resupply to the International Space Station. The first stage used for this launch is the same used to start the CRS-12 mission but this time it wasn’t recovered because Elon Musk’s company already started using a more advanced version.
The Dragon’s spacecraft cargo is of a little more than 2,600 kilograms (more than 5,800 lbs) between the pressurized and non-pressurized sections. There are about 340 kilograms (750 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.
Among the instruments transported on the Dragon there’s the Atmosphere-Space Interaction Monitor (ASIM) which, from outside ESA’s Columbus module, aims to record thunderstorms and in particular lightning. The goal is to improve atmospheric and meteorological models also contributing to climate research.
Among the technological experiments there’s NASA Sample Cartridge Assembly (MSL SCA-GEDS-German) which aims to test a liquid phase sintering system in the International Space Station’s microgravity. Basically, by heating powder materials it allows to form a liquid phase which accelerates its solidification. The aim is to develop construction techniques in space.
Another experiment concerning materials is Materials ISS Experiment Flight Facility (MISSE-FF), a platform to test the reactions of materials in the harsh space conditions. It’s the continuation of previous experiments that required spacewalks for some phases.
There are also medical-biological experiments such as a patch with an antimicrobial hydrogel, one to assess the possibility to develop pharmaceutical products in microgravity, one to assess the effects of microgravity on bone marrow and new experiments of farming on the International Space Station.
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 11 UTC the Dragon is scheduled to be captured by the Station’s robotic arm.