Space X’s Dragon Spacecraft will undertake its first contracted supply run to the International Space Station at 8:34 p.m. EDT on October 7th this year. Officials revealed on Friday that the private space capsule would blast off, atop Space X’s Falcon 9 rocket, from Florida based Cape Canaveral Air Force station on the slated date.
Officials also noted that a back up launch opportunity was available on October 8th, signaling the mission’s importance.
This mission is just the tip of the iceberg for California based Space X. The company holds a $1.6 billion NASA contract that requires it to make 12 similar unmanned flights to the space station. Apart from being an indication of things to follow, this mission is also Dragon’s first-ever veritable supply run to the International Space Station.
Dragon will be carrying about 1000 pounds of varied supplies. Officials noted that most of these supplies would be used to support the ongoing 166 scientific investigations that were planned during the ISS’s current Expedition 33. Some of the notable investigations include material demonstrations, plant cell biology, and human biotechnology.
If the mission is a success, Dragon will grace the surroundings of the ISS on October 10th, representing a two day trip. Thereafter, Japanese astronaut Aki Hoshide, alongside NASA’s Expedition 33 commander, Sunita Williams, will seize the Dragon using the lab’s robotic arm.
Dragon, which is expected to stay at the station for several weeks, is scheduled to leave the station in the final week of October. Before departure, it will stay at the station’s earth facing port, called the Harmony module. All through, Expedition 33 crew members will offload the capsule and load it up again with cargo to return to mother Earth.
Officials revealed that as it returns to the earth, Dragon will be carrying 504 pounds of space station hardware, and 734 pounds of scientific materials. On arrival, it will splash at neck breaking speeds into the Pacific Ocean, where it will be quickly retrieved.
While this is Dragon’s first ever contracted mission, it is not the first time that the capsule has gone to outer space. Back in May, Dragon became the first private held capsule to visit the $100 billion station in light of a historic demonstration mission that was geared towards establishing Dragon’s readiness to start its high priority contracted missions.
NASA seems to be embracing the idea of private contractors. It recently inked a $1.9 billion deal with Orbital Science Corp, requiring the Virginia based company to make 8 unmanned flights to the ISS later this year.