KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FL – SpaceX is on the cusp of launching the company’s fourth commercial resupply Dragon spacecraft mission to the International Space Station (ISS) shortly after midnight, Saturday, Sept. 20, 2014, continuing a rapid fire launch pace and carrying NASA’s first research payload – RapidScat – aimed at conducting Earth science from the stations exterior.
Final preparations for the launch are underway right now at the Cape Canaveral launch pad with the stowage of sensitive late load items including a specially designed rodent habitat housing 20 mice.
Update 20 Sept: Poor weather scrubs launch to Sept. 21 at 1:52 a.m.
If all goes well, Saturday’s launch of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket would be the second in less than two weeks, and the fourth over the past ten weeks. The last Falcon 9 successfully launched the AsiaSat 6 commercial telecom satellite on Sept. 7 – detailed here.
“We are ready to go, ” said Hans Koenigsmann, SpaceX vice president of mission assurance, at a media briefing at the Kennedy Space Center today, Sept. 19.
Liftoff of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on the CRS-4 mission bound for the ISS is targeted for an instantaneous window at 2:14 a.m. EDT from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida at the moment Earth’s rotation puts Cape Canaveral in the flight path of the ISS.
The weather forecast is marginal at 50/50 with rain showers and thick clouds as the primary concerns currently impacting the launch site.
The Dragon spacecraft is loaded with more than 5, 000 pounds of science experiments, spare parts, crew provisions, food, clothing and supplies to the six person crews living and working aboard the ISS soaring in low Earth orbit under NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) contract.
The CRS-4 missions marks the start of a new era in Earth science. The truck of the Dragon is loaded Dragon with the $30 Million ISS-Rapid Scatterometer to monitor ocean surface wind speed and direction.
RapidScat is NASA’s first research payload aimed at conducting Earth science from the stations exterior. The stations robot arm will pluck RapidScat out of the truck and attach it to an Earth-facing point on the exterior trusswork of ESA’s Columbus science module.
Dragon will also carry the first 3-D printer to space for studies by the astronaut crews over at least two years.
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NASA's Commercial Orbital Transportation Services: A New Era in Spaceflight - History of International Space Station (ISS) Cargo and Crew, SpaceX, Orbital Sciences, Bigelow
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