A technician guides a cargo bag into the Dragon spacecraft at the SpaceX facility at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla.
Credit: NASA/Jim Grossmann
The Dragon spacecraft built by SpaceX will head to the International Space Station with about 1, 200 pounds of cargo during its demonstration mission, including commemorative patches and pins, 162 meals and a collection of student experiments.
Since the company's rocket and spacecraft are conducting a test flight, the manifest attests to important goods for the station's crew of astronauts and cosmonauts, but not mission-critical items.
A successful flight, due to liftoff from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., at 4:55 a.m. EDT on May 19, is expected to lead to regular cargo missions that will carry a wider range of goods to the orbiting laboratory. Hawthorne, Calif.-based SpaceX, formally known as Space Exploration Technologies, is also deep into the work required to make Dragon suitable to carry people into orbit.
The mission is a landmark because it is the first time a privately built spacecraft will head to the International Space Station. The flight, which includes no crew members other than those already on the station who will guide Dragon's arrival, carries enormous challenges and involves numerous individual evaluations.
Most of the cargo's weight, 674 pounds, is in food and crew provisions, including the meals, crew clothing and batteries and other pantry items. A laptop and its accompanying accessories will also make the journey.
Tucked inside the Dragon capsule are two NanoRacks dedicated to student experiments that will study a range of microgravity-related areas from microbial growth to water purification.
The mission calls for the 18-foot-high Dragon to approach the station after its sensors and navigation systems are checked out thoroughly. The spacecraft will go through numerous tests during the third day of the flight as it passes within about 1.5 miles of the station. Communications networks from the spacecraft to the station will be evaluated during this phase, too.
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