Launch of Space X Dragon Spacecraft for the Final Cargo Mission 2019
Before we start talking about one of the most grandiose events in the aerospace industry that is often about “launching something”, let’s start with the event that usually precedes such performances. The prelaunch news conference is meant here.
This time, it occurred on Tuesday (December 3) where Space X representatives revealed a few significant details regarding the plans. They explained that currently, all the Dragon cargo crafts are to conduct only three trips before retirement. However, the engineering team managed to increase that in the Dragon’s successor. The innovational cargo option of Crew Dragon (known as the Dragon 2 spacecraft) will be certified to have five flights before retirement. Crew Dragon is going to be launched in 2020.
According to the commercial resupply services contract signed between Space X and NASA, Crew Dragon will carry out approximately six missions under phase two that is valued fourteen billion US dollars in total. The sum is to be divided among such commercial providers as Space X, Sierra Nevada, and Northrop Grumman. Most probably, the thing was discussed to intrigue the audience and make them start looking forward to 2020. However, let’s come back to reality and focus on the latest achievement of NASA and Space X’s partnership.
Challenges for the Launch: High Winds and No Fuel
SpaceX’s Dragon Rocket is a part of the manufacturer’s contract with NASA. Its main goal consists in Commercial Resupply Service mission or SR to the International Space Station. It launched on Thursday (December 5) at half-past twelve from Space Launch Complex 40 located in Florida. As you see, the launch happened a day after it was originally scheduled. The reason was fuel matters.
The flight was delayed because of high winds. Actually, this is not the first delay. Let’s recollect phase 1 when it turned out that the Falcon 9 hadn’t possessed enough fuel reserves to complete landing after ferrying Dragon to orbit. Falcon 9 is a capable-of-reflight rocket manufactured by Space X to guarantee reliable transport of Dragon spacecraft (and satellites) into orbit.
Well, the news was shocking! As usual, during such missions, the Falcon 9 possesses enough fuel to fly back to Space Launch Complex 40 and touch one of its landing sites. This happened because phase 1 requires extra performance to preserve energy for phase 2. Space X decided to apply thermal testing of the flight to optimize fuel performance during missions that demand a longtime coasting phase before they reach the target orbits. It is easily explained.
Earlier we read that NASA Changes the Fuel for Rockets . So, the Falcon 9 “eats” two kinds of propellant to launch to orbit:
· LOX or super-chilled liquid oxygen;
· RP-1, which is an improved type of kerosene.
If any kind of both propellants is supercooled, it means more fuel volume may be put into the rocket’s tanks. The propellants demonstrate the best features at certain temperatures. It means that during missions with a longtime coasting phase, phase 2 should relight for some period. So, the fuel left onboard has enough time to chill to acceptably low temperature.
This time, Falcon 9 will launch the Dragon to orbit, have an extended coast period, and get the thermal testing. We will see how that works out.
Witnessing the Procedure of Falcon 9 Rocket Launching
As we already know, a beautiful, new Falcon 9 rocket carrying the robotic Dragon cargo capsule lifted off this December. Above the Space X launch site, clear skies allowed the engineering team observing a marvelous view of the Falcon 9 rocket when it reached orbit. Later, anxious pictures of the rocket roar to life will be officially represented by Kennedy Space Center press site at NASA.
The rocket’s stage 1 successfully separated from it around two minutes after launch. It came back to the land in the Atlantic Ocean via the drone ship called “Of Course I Still Love You.” Then, Space X Dragon Spacecraft completely left the Falcon 9 rocket. The Dragon “spent time” in orbit powering deployed solar arrays so that they will be able to travel to the orbiting laboratory.
According to SpaceX, approximately four and a half hours after flying away from the International Space Station the Dragon spacecraft will “participate” in deorbit burn. As a rule, the procedure lasts less than ten minutes. It also takes the Dragon spacecraft about half an hour to reenter Earth’s atmosphere and land on the site in the Pacific Ocean.
About the Final Cargo Mission 2019
In general, we know that the Falcon 9 rocket together with the Dragon spacecraft was launched with the target to bring supplies to the space station in accordance with CRS-19. This mission is the nineteenth of twenty delivery missions in total Space X is to fly. This is mentioned by NASA in the contract which was announced in 2016. However, later they signed up the additional agreement in which the Falcon 9 rocket with Dragon spacecraft is responsible for resupplying the space station up to 2024.
So, as far as they finish with a four-week stay in space, the vehicles will come back to Earth delivering more than three thousand pounds of cargo. Now, we are going to discover what exactly was hauled according to the Final Cargo Mission 2019:
· The Dragon spacecraft was loaded with approximately three thousand kilograms of supplies. Additionally, it brought around a thousand kilograms of science equipment. The last is about to get used during the experiments within Expedition 61 and 62. Both expeditions will explore extreme physics matters, an innovational method of tool keep on the station, and in what way seeds germinate in space;
· The cargo shipment also contains a renovated science package CAL (NASA’s Cold Atom Lab). It has stayed in orbit since 2018. Cold Atom Lab designs clouds of ultra-chilled atoms identified as Bose-Einstein condensates (a degree a bit warmer than absolute zero). The super cold temperature performs like a glass on Bose-Einstein’s atoms. This allows scientists to investigate its quantum characteristics in more detail. Upgrading the Lab’s gear, they will be able to test Einstein’s equivalence principle, i.e. gravity influences all matter forms in the same way;
· Budweiser brand of beer is delivering their specialists’ fourth experimental solution onboard the Dragon spacecraft to the space station. It will support researchers in estimating how seeds germinate in the severe space environment. The teams desire to find the answer to why various plant genes live or die in space comparing to the Earth’s ground environment. The testing will take place on orbit based on barley seeds before malting;
· Finally, the space station will get two new “apartment” for all the robotic residents of the station. The “apartments” are called Robotic External Leak Locators or RELL which are equipped with so useful mass spectrometers to get rid of gas release from the space station.