Tomorrow morning, SpaceX will launch a Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral in Florida in order to send the Dragon spacecraft on the fifth Commercial Resupply (CRS-5) mission to the International Space Station. The launch is currently set for 6:20 am EST, and (as of the time of this writing) weather conditions have slightly improved and are predicted to be 70% favorable. The launch should be visible to those within 500 miles of Cape Canaveral for the first three minutes following liftoff. This will be SpaceX’s sixth trip to the ISS, and the fifth under contract with NASA. It will take the Dragon spacecraft about two days to reach the ISS after the launch.
This will also be SpaceX’s first attempt at landing the first stage of the rocket on a platform out in the ocean. SpaceX has been working toward the goal of rockets that can perform controlled landings, allowing them to be reused and reduce the cost of each launch. A recent press release from SpaceX has indicated that the company believes their “odds of success are not great—perhaps 50% at best.” Either way, it will be exciting to watch!
The payload of the Dragon will include supplies for the crew, along with a number of science experiments. The Self-Assembly in Biology and the Origin of Life (SABOL) experiment will investigate how proteins self-fold in order to better understand the mechanism behind the development of Alzheimer’s. Two experiments will investigate how cells and organisms are affected by weightlessness, which has implications for the future of long-term space travel. Fruit flies will be studied to analyze how immunity is affected by weightlessness, and a project by students in grades 5-12 as well as undergraduates will make a trip out to space.
The Dragon spacecraft will also bring the Cloud-Aerosol Transport System (CATS) instrument to space, which will analyze pollution within Earth’s atmosphere and clouds from the vantage point of the ISS. Understanding where and what the pollution is could be useful for those studying the environmental or biological implications of pollution.
It will take approximately four weeks for the Dragon capsule to return to Earth.
SpaceX will be doing a live webcast of the event, beginning at 6:00 am EST. NASA TV will also be doing a webcast of the launch, beginning at 5:00 am EST, with a post-launch briefing to follow at 7:45 am EST. NASA will also broadcast the Dragon’s rendezvous with the ISS on Thursday, January 8 beginning at 4:30 am EST. You can view all of the events right here on IFLScience.