Dragons attack International Space Station
Updated: Dec 26, 2020
11:17 AM Est. atop a Falcon 9 rocket from LC-39A at Kennedy Space Center
It's an all out Dragon attack above Earth This afternoon. An upgraded SpaceX Cargo Dragon has roared, breathed fire, and soared into orbit for it's debut flight. So it's not really an attack one needs to worry about, but it is further evidence that SpaceX is leading the way in commercial space flight. Dec 7th when this Cargo Dragon docks at the ISS (International Space Station) there will be two Dragon capsules riding the football field sized station 250 miles about Earths surface. This is the first time such a feat has happened along with some other firsts for the company SpaceX.
Most notably different between the two variants of the old and new Dragons is the ability to utilize the Crew Access Arm on LC-39A (Yes the thing the astronauts walk across the climb into their spaceship) to load/unload supplies if needed. Having to bring the entire rocket horizontal if/when cargo needed to be changed out or refreshed due to scrubs or delays can cause further setbacks and potential issues. SpaceX has learned from their previous endeavors and made the newest version everything they figured out would be needed after the previous twenty CRS missions. Back in 2019 with CRS-19 several live mice were onboard and oxygen had to be replenished after a few delays. The entire rocket will no longer need to be taken horizontal for simple tasks such as these.
Also CRS if you weren't aware stands for Commercial Resupply Services, the number afterward being the mission number. So this is the twenty-first CRS mission undertaken by the company. CRS is a NASA awarded contract to bring the development of private enterprises to supply the International Space Station. SpaceX was originally awarded the contract in 2008, and flew their first resupply mission back in 2012. The contract was good for twelve missions but with the success rate NASA chose to extend the contract in 2016 to add many more flights using Dragon Cargo capsules. With a few more firsts to squeeze in let me add that this is the first time a booster will be flown on a NASA mission after flying a non NASA mission. It's also the first time SpaceX will launch a NASA payload on a booster that has flown more than once.
While on the topic of firsts, lets also cover the Falcon 9 first stage booster flying today's mission. Booster 1058 was first flown back in May of this year when astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken returned crewed spaceflight to American soil. It became a symbol of restoration to our Space Program as it revived the NASA "worm" logo which is still on one side of the Falcon's core. 1058 then flew again just one month and twenty days later for the ANASIS-II mission. Another two and a half months later it launched again for Starlink L12. Today is exactly two months since that flight back on October 6th.
In an even cooler bit of information I've read, and would like to know more about, those mice (presumably) from CRS-19 will be returning inside the capsule along with other items, like a failed avionics unit for the astronaut treadmill, when it returns to Earth and Splashes down in the Atlantic Ocean after the mission (also the first time a Cargo Dragon has done so).
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