Tons of supplies, including tardigrades, baby Hawaiian bobtail squid, and a batch of fresh fruit and vegetables, are scheduled to lift off on Thursday aboard a new SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket bound for the International Space Station. You can watch the action live right here.
Launch of the uncrewed SpaceX CRS-22 commercial cargo mission to the ISS is expected at 3:29 a.m. AEST.
A Falcon 9 rocket, along with a Dragon capsule packed with 3,328 kg of cargo, will lift off from Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy Space Centre in Florida. NASA’s coverage of the event will begin at 3:00 a.m. AEST, while the SpaceX broadcast will begin at 3:25 a.m. AEST. Both feeds are viewable below.
Should today’s launch be postponed, NASA and SpaceX will try again on June 5. After separating from the Dragon capsule, the Falcon 9 first stage will attempt an autonomous landing on the Of Course I Still Love You droneship, currently positioned in the Atlantic Ocean. Dragon is scheduled to dock with the ISS on June 5 at 7:00 p.m. AEST.
The Dragon spacecraft contains crew supplies, materials for science experiments, spacewalk equipment, vehicle hardware, and computer resources. Packed within the science cargo are a colony of tardigrades, a batch of baby bobtail squid, and some cotton plants, among other items. The crew will experiment upon these organisms to test interactions between animals and their symbiotic microbes, to gain a better understanding of how some animals are able to survive extreme conditions, and to develop crops that require less water and pesticides. The little squid are part of the UMAMI experiment, designed to “ascertain how microbes colonise and influence the development of the animals” in space.
Other experiments going up include an investigation into why astronauts are prone to kidney stones, along with tests of a virtual reality interface and a portable ultrasound device.
Today’s launch will be SpaceX’s 22nd cargo resupply mission to the ISS. This specific Falcon 9 booster and the Dragon spacecraft are launching for the very first time; most other missions have involved reused vehicles. The Dragon will return to Earth in July, carrying 2,400 kg of experiment samples and cargo.