The SpaceX Dragon spacecraft blasted off for its CRS-22 mission for NASA

SpaceX's Dragon 2 cargo spacecraft blasting off atop a Falcon 9 rocket (Photo NASA/Kim Shiflett)
SpaceX’s Dragon 2 cargo spacecraft blasting off atop a Falcon 9 rocket (Photo NASA/Kim Shiflett)

A few hours ago the SpaceX Dragon 2 spacecraft blasted off atop a Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral in its CRS-22 (Cargo Resupply Service 22) mission, also referred to as SPX-22. After almost exactly 12 minutes it separated successfully from the rocket’s last stage and went en route. This is the 22nd mission for the Dragon spacecraft to resupply the International Space Station with various cargoes and then return to Earth, again with various cargoes. It’s the second mission for this Dragon version.

The Dragon 2 spacecraft’s cargo is a little over 3,300 kg (a little more than 7,300 lbs) between the pressurized and the non-pressurized section. There are about 341 kg (751 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.

Medical-biological experiments are always among the most numerous and this Dragon 2 space freighter carries several of them. The UMAMI (Understanding of Microgravity on Animal-Microbe Interactions) experiment concerns symbiosis, in this case, between the bobtail squid (Euprymna scolopes) and the bacterium Vibrio fischeri, to understand how it’s affected by microgravity. The Cell Science-04 experiment is one of many that deals with tardigrades and their ability to survive in extreme environments. The TICTOC (Targeting Improved Cotton Through On-orbit Cultivation) experiment will be used to study the growth of cotton’s roots, normally influenced by gravity, to try to develop plants that require less water and pesticides.

In addition to the various experiments, the Dragon 2 cargo spacecraft carries new space panels that will gradually replace the ones currently used to power the International Space Station. The oldest solar panels are over 20 years old and started degrading, so it was decided to add new ones. New panels will be sent a couple at a time to the unpressurized section of the Dragon 2 over the course of this year for a total of three shipments. The old solar panels will continue to be used as long as they work and the total power generated along with the new ones will increase significantly.

The crew’s health is a priority in all space missions. Butterfly IQ Ultrasound is a portable ultrasound device to be tested on the International Space Station. The idea is to adopt it for long-term missions, even on Earth in isolated areas.

The Dragon 2 space freighter’s arrival is scheduled for Saturday: at about 9 UTC, the Dragon is scheduled to dock with the Station: the maneuver is automatic as, unlike the first Dragon version, the new one doesn’t need to be captured by the Station’s robotic arm to complete the docking.

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