NASA this week is preparing for the first SpaceX launch under its Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) contract. NASA has not had the capability, on its own, to deliver and return cargo to and from the International Space Station (ISS) since the space shuttle program was retired just over one year ago.
The launch of the SpaceX CRS-1, or "Dragon", spacecraft will take place on Sunday, October 7th at 8:35 pm EDT. If that launch window is not met, there are backup launch windows available on October 8th and October 9th.
On Sunday, SpaceX conducted a successful static fire test of the Falcon 9 rocket that will carry Dragon into space. Meanwhile, NASA is preparing a series of tests for Orbital Sciences Corporation's Antares rocket, which will carry the Cygnus cargo spacecraft into orbit during a demonstration mission "in the coming months." Orbital Sciences is also part of NASA's CRS contract, and will also be resupplying the ISS in the future.
This launch is one of 12 that have been contracted by NASA to resupply the ISS. NASA states that the Dragon will be filled with around 1,000 pounds of supplies, including materials to support the investigations planned for the ISS crew. The vehicle will also return around 734 pounds of scientific materials and an estimated 504 pounds of ISS hardware.
A Dragon spacecraft has already visited the ISS once, during a successful test mission in May of this year. The photo above is from the launch of that mission.
(Photo courtesy SpaceX)