Featured Image Source: SpaceX
SpaceX is conducting preflight preparations ahead of their 20th resupply mission to the International Space Station (ISS) under their Commercial Resupply Cargo Services (CRS) contract with NASA, known as CRS-20. It will be the final resupply mission under phase 1 of SpaceX's commercial resupply contract, as well as Dragon's final flight before retirement. A pre-flown Falcon 9 rocket is scheduled to liftoff on Friday, March 6 at 11:50 p.m. EST. from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Falcon 9 will carry the Dragon spacecraft with over 5,600 pounds of cargo for the Expedition 62 NASA astronauts working in the orbiting laboratory. Today, SpaceX announced it completed a Falcon 9 static-fire test ahead of launch day. During the test, the rocket's nine Merlin 1D engines were briefly ignited for a few seconds then shut down quickly, while engineers assessed data to ensure the rocket is ready to take flight.
11 AM Mar 1: Moments ago #SpaceX carried out #Falcon9 rocket static fire test #pad40 for #CRS20 #Dragon cargo mission to #ISS. brief engine firing 11 am. awaiting confirmation good test for @SpaceX launch for @NASA to @Space_Station with over 2.5 tons science & supplies pic.twitter.com/EClJkZfoBl— Ken Kremer (@ken_kremer) March 1, 2020
"Falcon 9 static fire test complete — targeting March 6 launch from Pad 40 in Florida for Dragon’s twentieth resupply mission to the Space Station, the final flight of the first version of Dragon."
The Falcon 9 first-stage booster that will be used during CRS-20 has conducted one previous resupply mission, "The Falcon 9 booster supporting this mission previously flew in support of our most recent launch to the Space Station, CRS-19," SpaceX stated. Rocket reusability is a huge achievement for the company. During the upcoming launch, Falcon 9 is expected to be recovered a second time in order to be used on future flights. SpaceX will attempt to recover the Falcon 9's first-stage by bringing it back from space to land it on Landing Zone 1 in Cape Canaveral.
"The Dragon spacecraft supporting this mission previously flew in support of our tenth and sixteenth commercial resupply missions – this will be the third Dragon to fly on three mission."
Dragon will be retired, when it’s successor the Dragon V2 spacecraft, also known as Crew Dragon, launches - each craft will be certified to be reused up to 5 cargo flights to the space station. The Dragon spacecraft has been in operation for nearly a decade, it will be retired after the CRS-20 mission. Overall, Dragon has conducted 21 missions to space ever since its maiden flight in 2010. SpaceX will replace the Dragon spacecraft with an upgraded version that will be capable of transporting astronauts plus cargo aboard. Last year, Crew Dragon performed a successful debut flight, Demo-1, the craft demonstrated reliability by docking autonomously to the station. Crew Dragon's second flight, Demo-2, will be the first manned mission conducted by SpaceX slated for May this year.