CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — A SpaceX Falcon 9 lifted off into the blue skies over America’s Space Coast Thursday successfully placing a resupply craft on a course toward the International Space Station.
The Dragon supply craft is making its third voyage to the space station, having flown in 2014 and 2017. Loaded with 5700 pounds of science experiments, the Dragon will spend one month docked to the station.
As the countdown reached zero, the Falcon’s nine engines roared to life lifting the commerical rocket off it’s seaside pad at 12:29:24 p.m. EST. The white rocket thundered into the deep blue sky riding a golden flame toward space.
Minutes later, the core first stage seperated. Dragon successfully arrived on orbit and deployed its solar arrays and high gain antenna.
Unlike recent Falcon 9 launches, this was the first flight for this Falcon core stage. Once it had expended its fuel, the first stage separated and performed a controlled landing a top a floating platform located 180 miles east of Jacksonville, Fla.
SpaceX’s 19th supply mission since 2012 carries new science experiments which will study bone and muscle loss contributed to microgravity. Their findings will create a medication designed for astronauts performing long duration space flights.
Another experiment will look into how fire reacts and can be safely contained in a zero-gravity environment. Also riding to Earth’s orbital lab is a small satellite built by college students in Mexico known as AzTechSat-1. The cubesat will be deployed from the station in early January.
NASA’s nearby Kennedy Space Center hosted nearly 40 social media guests to view the launch. The popular NASA Social allowed the average citizen an opportunity to watch the launch from only 2.8 miles away.
“With the advent of social media, we are reaching people who may not get their news from the press,” NASA Internet Services Manager Brian Dunbar explained. “We try to connect with folks who use social media, some are focused on aerospace and some are not, and it gives them a look at what we do and they in turn convey that to their followers.”
On Sunday, space station commander Luca Parmitano of the European Space Agency will grapple the cargo ship with a 55-foot robotic arm at about 6 a.m. Following Dragon’s capture, NASA’s mission control near Houston will command the arm to slowly align the craft with the station’s Harmony port for docking.
(Charles A Atkeison reports on aerospace and technology. Follow his updates via social media @Military_Flight.)