Used spacex dragon launches nasa cargo to space station on pre-flown rocket

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launches a Dragon cargo ship filled with NASA supplies for the International Space Station on April 2, 2018. The Falcon 9 and Dragon, both making their second flight, launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Credit: NASA TV

The Dragon spacecraft that launched today also flew cargo to the ISS in April 2016, and the Falcon 9’s first stage launched on the CRS-12 mission in August 2017. While the booster stuck an upright landing at SpaceX’s "Landing Zone 1" at Cape Canaveral after its first launch, SpaceX did not attempt to land the booster today.

As the spacecraft approaches the ISS, Japanese astronaut Norishige Kanai and NASA astronaut Scott Tingle will use the station’s Canadarm2 robotic arm to grapple the spacecraft and tug it to the Harmony module, NASA officials said in a statement.

Kanai and Tingle will capture the Dragon at approximately 7 a.m. EDT (1100 GMT) Wednesday, if all goes according to plan.

You can watch live coverage of the Dragon’s arrival here at starting at 5:30 a.m. EDT (0930 GMT), courtesy of NASA TV. After the spacecraft has been captured, NASA TV will resume live coverage of its installation in the Harmony module at 8:30 a.m. EDT (1230 GMT).

The Dragon will remain at the ISS until May, when the Expedition 56 crew will ship it back to Earth. It will splash down in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Baja California, Mexico, with about 3,900 lbs. (1,800 kg) of cargo, SpaceX officials said in a statement. Expedition 55/56 crewmembers will therefore have about a month to unload and repack the Dragon before its scheduled departure.

About half of the cargo inside the Dragon will support 50 of the 250 science experiments that the Expedition 55 crew are conducting aboard the ISS. "This flight delivers scientific investigations looking at severe thunderstorms on Earth, the effects of microgravity on production of high-performance products from metal powders, and growing food in space," NASA officials said in a statement.

One experiment, the Atmosphere-Space Interactions Monitor (ASIM), is a small Earth-observation facility that will study severe thunderstorms and upper-atmospheric lightning from an external platform at the ISS, outside the European Space Agency’s Columbus module. "ASIM advances understanding of the effect of thunderstorms on Earth’s atmosphere, helping to improve atmospheric models and meteorological and climatological predictions," NASA officials said in the statement.

Another piece of scientific equipment heading to the ISS will provide a new test bed for all kinds of research on subjects ranging from plants and fruit flies to protein crystals and cell cultures. This "Multi-use Variable-g Platform" has built-in carousels that can produce up to 2 Gs of artificial gravity, or two times the pull of Earth’s gravity, according to NASA’s description.

Edible plants growing aboard the ISS will also receive an upgrade with the new Veggie PONDS experiment, which "uses a newly developed passive nutrient delivery system … to cultivate lettuce and mizuna greens, which are to be harvested on-orbit, and consumed, with samples returned to Earth for analysis," according to the Veggie PONDS experiment description.