Dragon’s flawless launch
Tucked in the trunk of the latest commercial cargo spacecraft to head for the International Space Station (ISS) is an expandable structure that has the potential to revolutionize work and life on the space station.
SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft is delivering almost 7,000 pounds of cargo, including the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM), to the orbital laboratory following its launch on a Falcon 9 rocket at 4:43 p.m. EDT from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
The mission is SpaceX’s eighth cargo delivery through NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services contract. Dragon’s cargo will support dozens of the more than 250 science and research investigations taking place on the space station during Expeditions 47 and 48.
“The cargo will allow investigators to use microgravity conditions to test the viability of expandable space habitats, assess the impact of antibodies on muscle wasting, use protein crystal growth to aid the design of new disease-fighting drugs and investigate how microbes could affect the health of the crew and their equipment over a long duration mission,” said NASA deputy administrator Dava Newman.
Dragon will be grappled at 7 am Sunday, 10 April by ESA’s British astronaut Tim Peake using the Station’s Candarm2 robotic arm, with help from NASA astronaut Jeff Williams.
BEAM will arrive in Dragon’s unpressurised trunk and, after about five days, will be removed and attached to the ISS. Expansion is targeted for the end of May. The module will expand to roughly 10 feet in diameter and 13 feet long. During its two-year test mission, astronauts will enter the module for a few hours several times a year to retrieve sensor data and assess conditions.
Expandable habitats are designed to take up less room on a rocket, but provide greater volume for living and working in space once expanded. This first in situ test of the module will allow investigators to gauge how well the habitat protects against solar radiation, space debris and contamination.
To see my photo of the oaunch from Kenedy Space Center in Florida click here