SpaceX is ready to launch cargo aboard an upgraded Dragon spacecraft over the weekend. It will be SpaceX's 21st cargo mission to the International Space Station (ISS) under NASA’s second Commercial Resupply Services contract (CRS-21) to deliver cargo needed at the ISS Lab. “The mission will deliver supplies, equipment, and critical materials to support dozens of the more than 250 science and research investigations that will occur aboard the orbiting laboratory during Expeditions 64 and 65,” the agency wrote in a press release. A historic SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, topped with the upgraded Dragon capsule, is awaiting liftoff at NASA Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A in Cape Canaveral, Florida, pictured above. Liftoff is scheduled for 11:39 a.m. EST on Saturday, December 5. The CRS-21 mission will be the first resupply mission that will utilize SpaceX's upgraded version of the cargo Dragon capsule, “First launch of the upgraded cargo version of Dragon, which can carry 50% more science payloads than the previous version,” SpaceX states.
The Falcon 9 booster supporting this mission previously launched @NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley to the @space_station, the ANASIS-II mission, and a Starlink mission pic.twitter.com/qNVIaBjCCa— SpaceX (@SpaceX) December 3, 2020
The previously-flown Falcon 9 rocket that will conduct the CRS-21 mission is filled with dark scorch marks because it conducted three missions before. In May, SpaceX made history when it performed its first crewed voyage to the Space Station. The same Falcon 9 rocket, identified as first-stage booster B1058.3, propelled NASA Astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley aboard the Crew Dragon spacecraft during the Demo-2 mission. Soon after deploying Crew Dragon to orbit, the first-stage booster B1058, reentered Earth's rough atmosphere and landed on the Of Course I Still Love You [OCISLY] autonomous drone ship at the Atlantic Ocean. The brave astronaut pair, SpaceX employees call “Space Dads,” tested Crew Dragon's capabilities and functions during their trip. They spent 63 days at the orbiting laboratory conducting scientific experiments and assessing the spacecraft’s performance while docked to the station. The Space Dads returned to Earth on August 2nd aboard the spacecraft. They splashed-down in the ocean off Florida's coast, demonstrating Dragon is reliable to carry-out human missions to space and back. The successful mission officially returned human spaceflight capabilities to the United States after nearly a decade.
The same historic booster B1058.3 later propelled the South Korean ANASIS-II communications satellite to orbit in July. SpaceX recovered the booster a second time, it landed on the Just Read The Instructions [JRTI] autonomous drone ship soon after liftoff. Then, Falcon 9’s third flight deployed 60 internet-beaming Starlink satellites to low Earth orbit in October and landed on the OCISLY droneship again. Now, SpaceX announced the first-stage booster will fly a fourth time.
Static fire test complete — targeting December 5 for Falcon 9 launch of Dragon’s 21st resupply mission to the @space_station; team is keeping an eye on weather conditions as the forecast is currently 40% favorable for liftoff— SpaceX (@SpaceX) December 3, 2020
“Static fire test complete — targeting December 5 for Falcon 9 launch of Dragon’s 21st resupply mission to the @space_station; team is keeping an eye on weather conditions as the forecast is currently 40% favorable for liftoff,” the company announced via Twitter. Having stable weather conditions is crucial because the company aims to recover/land the historic B1058 first-stage booster a fourth time. Approximately nine minutes after liftoff on Saturday, the booster is expected to perform a vertical landing on an autonomous droneship at sea. SpaceX aims to recover Falcon 9 boosters at least 10 times; rocket reusability significantly decreases the cost of spaceflight.
You can watch Live coverage of the CRS-21 mission and prelaunch events in the video below, courtesy of NASA TV. Schedule is in Eastern Time (EST).
1 p.m. EST Friday, Dec. 4 – Virtual NASASocial Science and Station Q&A session.
[Time Pending] Friday, Dec. 4 – Prelaunch news conference from Kennedy with representatives from the International Space Station Program Office, SpaceX, and the U.S. Air Force 45th Space Wing
11:15 a.m. EST Saturday, Dec. 5 – Live launch countdown coverage begins.
WATCH IT LIVE!
Featured Image Source: SpaceX / NASA
About the Author
Evelyn J. Arevalo joined Tesmanian in 2019 to cover news as a Space Journalist and SpaceX Starbase Texas Correspondent. Evelyn is specialized in rocketry and space exploration. The main topics she covers are SpaceX and NASA.