Saturday morning at 2:14 am EDT, SpaceX will launch a Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral in Florida. This marks SpaceX’s fourth of twelve commercial resupply services (CRS) missions to the ISS. This is also SpaceX’s second launch this month; they successfully launched the AsiaSat-6 on September 7.
Atop the Falcon 9 rocket is a Dragon spacecraft, containing 2.5 tons of material for the astronauts of Expeditions 41/42 aboard the ISS. The capsule contains food and provisions for the crew and 255 science experiments and research tools. Among these, the SpinSat satellite will test a new propulsion system for small satellites and perform a drag experiment when solar activity is high. NASA’s RapidScan instrument will be mounted outside of the ISS and will be used to research oceans. The astronauts will also be receiving a 3D printer in order to explore the potential for astronauts to produce their own replacement parts.
Also coming along for the ride are 20 mousetronauts. Half of these brave explorers will return to Earth with the Dragon capsule, and the rest will be spending more time in space and will return at a later date.
SpaceX and Orbital Sciences are the only two commercial spaceflight companies who have been supplying the ISS through the CRS program. Earlier this week, NASA announced that SpaceX and Boeing will manufacture spacecraft that will return human launches to Low Earth Orbit to the United States, beginning in 2017. By contracting out this task, NASA will be able to concentrate on journeys deeper into space, including Mars. SpaceX will use a modified version of the Dragon spacecraft that seats seven astronauts and will use their Falcon 9 rockets for launch.
NASA will be broadcasting the resupply launch live beginning at 1:00 am EDT. You can tune in right here: