Science

 SpaceX successfully launches Dragon for its 19th mission to the ISS carrying a 5,700-pound payload


SpaceX successfully launched the ‘Dragon’ capsule on top of its Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida for its 19th commercial resupply mission to the International Space Station.

The craft took off at 12:29 PM Thursday carrying a 5,700-pound payload that includes genetically-edited ‘mighty-mice’ and Budweiser barley seeds.

The Dragon safely deployed from the rocket and is coasting towards the International Space Station– it will reach the craft in three days and spend a total of 30 before returning to Earth with other research and cargo.

The mission had been scheduled to launch yesterday, but rough winds detected in the upper atmosphere forced a one-day delay for safety reasons.

However, it was a beautiful day in Cape Canaveral with low wind speeds, allowing SpaceX to give the launch another go.

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SpaceX successfully launched the ‘Dragon’ capsule on top of its Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida for its 19th commercial resupply mission to the International Space Station

SpaceX successfully launched the ‘Dragon’ capsule on top of its Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida for its 19th commercial resupply mission to the International Space Station

The Falcon rocket hit supersonic speeds at around one minute and 15 seconds and reached maximum dynamic pressure five seconds later.

Around 10 minutes after launch, Dragon was in preliminary orbit and began coasting through space towards the Internationals Space Station (ISS) at around 13 minutes. 

When it arrives at the station on Sunday, December 7, Expedition 61 Commander Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency) will grapple Dragon with NASA astronaut Andrew Morgan acting as a backup.

NASA’s Jessica Meir will assist the pair by monitoring telemetry during Dragon’s approach and the entire crew on-board will observe Dragon vehicle functions during engagement.

The mission had been scheduled to launch yesterday, but rough winds detected in the upper atmosphere forced a one-day delay for safety reasons. However, it was a beautiful day in Cape Canaveral with low wind speeds, allowing SpaceX to give the launch another go

 The mission had been scheduled to launch yesterday, but rough winds detected in the upper atmosphere forced a one-day delay for safety reasons. However, it was a beautiful day in Cape Canaveral with low wind speeds, allowing SpaceX to give the launch another go

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The craft took off at 12:29 PM Thursday carrying a 5,700-pound payload that includes genetically-edited ‘mighty-mice’ and Budweiser barley seeds. Pictured is the Dragon cargo carrier

The craft took off at 12:29 PM Thursday carrying a 5,700-pound payload that includes genetically-edited ‘mighty-mice’ and Budweiser barley seeds. Pictured is the Dragon cargo carrier 

After Dragon’s capture, mission control in Houston will send commands for the station’s arm to rotate and install it on the bottom of the station’s Harmony Earth-facing port.

The Falcon 9 rocket also made a successful landing on teh autonomous drone recovery ship, ‘Of course I still love you’, as it is a part of SpaceX’s reusable rocket program.

The mission includes a range of experiments for the ISS crew to conduct, one consists of genetically-edited ‘might mice’, which were tweaked to have enhanced muscle growth.  

Hailing from the Jackson Laboratory in Maine, a non-profit biomedical research facility, the mice have been genetically manipulated in order to enhance their muscle growth.

The Falcon rocket hit supersonic speeds at around one minute and 15 seconds and reached maximum dynamic pressure five seconds later

The Falcon rocket hit supersonic speeds at around one minute and 15 seconds and reached maximum dynamic pressure five seconds later

The Dragon safely deployed from the rocket and is coasting towards the International Space Station– it will reach the craft in three days and spend a total of 30 before returning to Earth with other research and cargo

The Dragon safely deployed from the rocket and is coasting towards the International Space Station– it will reach the craft in three days and spend a total of 30 before returning to Earth with other research and cargo

The little spacefarers will help scientists study how to mitigate bone and muscle loss in low gravity — an issue which, in humans, presents an obstacle to long-distance missions further out into our solar system.

According to the Jackson Laboratory website, the mice study ‘will also be tremendously valuable in understanding muscle degeneration in humans on Earth.’

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The mighty mice are but the latest rodent visitors to the International Space Station, and follow in the tiny footsteps of 20 mice, each genetically identical, who spent a few weeks in the orbiting laboratory earlier this year.

These previous mice — who all returned to terra firma safely — were seen to behave there essentially as they would have done on the Earth.

The mighty mice are but the latest rodent visitors to the International Space Station, and follow in the tiny footsteps of 20 mice, each genetically identical, who spent a few weeks in the orbiting laboratory earlier this year, seen below. Above, NASA's rodent habitat module

Tweaked to have enhanced muscle growth, the ripped rodents — which bring to mind the superman-parodying cartoon Mighty Mouse, pictured

The mighty mice are but the latest rodent visitors to the International Space Station, and follow in the tiny footsteps of 20 mice, each genetically identical, who spent a few weeks in the orbiting laboratory earlier this year, seen below Tweaked to have enhanced muscle growth, the ripped rodents — which brings to mind the superman-parodying cartoon Mighty Mouse, pictured right

Alongside their muscular rodent cargo, the SpaceX flight will also be carrying a variety of experimental equipment up to the orbiting laboratory to take advantage of the low-gravity setting- including barley grains for a beer-malting experiment by Anheuser-Busch.

These will include devices to test basic theories of gravity, investigate how fire behaves in space and test prospective therapies for heart disease.

The rocket is also carrying NASA’s so-called Robotic Tool Stowage, a new addition to the space station which will provide shielded storage space for robots that operate around the outside of the orbiting lab.

The Tool Stowage’s first inhabitants will be a pair or bots designed to detect potential atmospheric leaks from the orbiting laboratory so that they might be patched up.

In total, the launch will transport around 5,700 pounds (around 2600 kg) of supplies up into the Earth’s orbit. 

SpaceX has regular contracts to resupply the International Space Station — earning billions of dollars in the process — with the firm expected to provide this service to NASA through to at least the year 2024.

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Such is expected to be expended to human passengers soon, with SpaceX working on its so-called ‘Crew Dragon’ spacecraft which will begin ferrying astronauts if this month’s tests of the vehicle’s escape capsule proves successful.  

WHAT IS THE INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION? 

After delays caused by high winds, lift-off of the Falcon 9 rocket is now expected to take place at 12:29 EST (19:29 GMT) from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. It's 'Dragon' capsule will go on to dock with the International Space Station, pictured, on Sunday

After delays caused by high winds, lift-off of the Falcon 9 rocket is now expected to take place at 12:29 EST (19:29 GMT) from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. It’s ‘Dragon’ capsule will go on to dock with the International Space Station, pictured, on Sunday

 The International Space Station (ISS) is a $100 billion (£80 billion) science and engineering laboratory that orbits 250 miles (400 km) above Earth.

It has been permanently staffed by rotating crews of astronauts and cosmonauts since November 2000. 

Research conducted aboard the ISS often requires one or more of the unusual conditions present in low Earth orbit, such as low-gravity or oxygen.

ISS studies have investigated human research, space medicine, life sciences, physical sciences, astronomy and meteorology.

The US space agency, NASA, spends about $3 billion (£2.4 billion) a year on the space station program, a level of funding that is endorsed by the Trump administration and Congress.

A U.S. House of Representatives committee that oversees NASA has begun looking at whether to extend the program beyond 2024.

Alternatively the money could be used to speed up planned human space initiatives to the moon and Mars.



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