SpaceX will face another monumental challenge today as the company seeks to send its third resupply to the International Space Station. Elon Musk’s space company is set to send a Falcon 9 rocket with a Dragon freighter to the orbiting ship. The machine is set for take-off at 16:58 EST from Florida’s Kennedy Space Center.

SpaceX

Today’s launch will be incrementally important in the development of the SpaceX Falcon-9 rocket. The company is testing a system that should allow it to recover the first stage of the rocket after it is disconnected inside the earth’s atmosphere early in the flight. Recovering parts of its rockets in a reusable state is one of the most important medium-term goals for SpaceX.

SpaceX to carry cheerleader germs

One of the more interesting experiments on board the SpaceX flight today was formed in part by cheerleaders from the NBA and the NFL. The experiment involves the transportation of 48 microbe samples into space. The samples were each collected from a place of historical significance on earth.

The “cheerleader experiment” seeks to form a dataset concerning the effects of microgravity on micro-organisms. The Microbial Ecology Research Combining Citizen and University Researchers, or Project MERCCURI for short, was led by Jonathan Eisen at UC Davis and the samples were picked by the scientifically curious cheerleaders along with 4000 members of the American public.

SpaceX flight takes off at 16:48 EST

The flight won’t just be carrying cheerleader germs, however. Cargo on board the SpaceX rocket includes more than five tons of food and supplies for the ISS. As always, the SpaceX mission will be unmanned, and it will be received by astronauts on board the orbiting platform on Wednesday.

This is the fourth visit that a SpaceX mission will make to the ISS, and is is the third time the company has carried supplies to the space station. NASA awarded the company a $1.6 billion resupply contract as the US space agency’s own shuttle program came to an end.

SpaceX is endeavoring to create a new reality in space exploration and, under the eye of Elon Musk, make private space exploration a reality. If the experiments with reusable rockets return useful information, and end up resulting in a practical reusable space vehicle, private exploration will have gotten much cheaper.

For those awaiting a public début of SpaceX, today’s launch is another good sign. Elon Musk, however, is adamant that the company will not go public until the Mars colonial transporter is flying regularly. Private space flight isn’t a matter for public investors just yet, but given Elon Musk’s past success with almost impossible businesses, that Mars transporter may fly sooner than investors expect.