KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. – A day after poor weather scrubbed a SpaceX launch, the company and NASA successfully sent a Cargo Dragon spacecraft into orbit from Kennedy Space Center.
The spacecraft successfully docked at the International Space Station ahead of schedule Monday morning carrying about 4,800 pounds of cargo, including some fresh food for the astronauts living in space.
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The spacecraft’s journey began blasting off on a Falcon 9 rocket at 3:14 a.m. Sunday, marking SpaceX’s 23rd resupply mission for NASA.
ISS program Joel Montalbano said the groceries include cherry tomatoes, some avocado, lemons and onions.
“We’re also flying ice cream for the crew members — that’s a big hit with our crew members,” Montalbano said.
The Dragon trunk was empty for this mission due to pandemic-related delays.
“Well, COVID-19 has impacted all of us and the space station program is no different,” Jennifer Scott Williams, NASA ISS research manager, said Friday. “Due to linear supply issues and other interruptions because of a pandemic, the International Space Station elected to, decide to, fly those other investigations on another flight, in order to preserve the timeline for CRS-23.”
SpaceX also utilized its brand new drone ship, A Shortfall of Gravitas, for this mission. The Falcon 9 booster landed on the autonomous droneship in the Atlantic Ocean about eight minutes after launch. It was the fourth launch of this particular booster and the second trip to the ISS for the Dragon spacecraft.
“This will be the first time that we’ve used this newest vessel in the fleet, and it comes with some great upgrades,” SpaceX Dragon Mission Manager Sarah Walker said.
The ship was designed and built to travel out to sea, find its position, receive the rocket and then actually secure the rocket to the ship all robotically using the Octograbber robot, according to Walker.
“That secures the four landing legs of the rocket to the ship, and then travel back to port for it to be offloaded completely autonomously, which is a huge upgrade,” Walker explained. “We’re in the final phases of testing out all of that capability and so this mission, I believe, will actually just utilize it similar to our other vehicles with our other recovery vessels where it will be pulled out with a tugboat and then it will autonomously keep its position from there.”
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