Updated: Jun 4
Unstable weather in Cape is the only obstacle to the launch of the rocket on upcoming days
KENNEDY SPACE CENTER - The upcoming launch of the Falcon 9 v1.2 BL 5 rocket, designated B1077.5, with the Cargo Dragon spacecraft C208-4 prepares to embark on the 28th Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) mission by SpaceX to the International Space Station (ISS). The launch is scheduled for tomorrow, June 5, 2023, from Kennedy Space Center's Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A).
Currently, the weather conditions are approximately 30% favorable for the launch. This factor adds an element of anticipation and uncertainty, as the success of the mission relies on suitable weather conditions. The launch window is set for 11:47 pm EDT (1547 UTC), allowing for an automated flight of the spacecraft.
Approximately at T+ 42 hours in flight, Dragon will autonomously dock with the orbiting laboratory on Tuesday, June 6 at approximately 6:15 a.m. ET (10:15 UTC).
At the heart of this mission lie two International Space Station Roll Out Solar Arrays (IROSAs) securely tucked inside the Cargo Dragon's trunk. These state-of-the-art solar panels, once deployed and attached to the starboard side of the station's truss structure, are expected to revolutionize the ISS's electricity capabilities. With a projected output exceeding 20 kilowatts, the IROSAs will grant the station a 30% increase in energy production, effectively expanding its operational capacity until 2030.
Deep within the confines of the Cargo Dragon, several tons of meticulously packed experiments, food, supplies, and cutting-edge equipment eagerly await delivery to the ISS. Boasting a total weight of 10,525 kg, the spacecraft carries 3,528 kg dedicated to payloads, divided between the pressurized compartment and the trunk. This treasure trove of resources aims to replenish the station's crew and provide them with the necessary tools to push the boundaries of scientific exploration.
Once the Cargo Dragon reaches its destination, it will delicately dock with the ISS's Harmony module's IDA-3 'zenith' adapter. This critical rendezvous, scheduled for Monday at 05:36 UTC, ensures a secure connection between the spacecraft and the station, allowing for the transfer of supplies and equipment. This process highlights the meticulous planning and engineering prowess required to accomplish such feats in the unforgiving environment of space.
However, the mission doesn't conclude with a successful docking. The Cargo Dragon is expected to remain attached to the ISS for approximately one month, during which time the Expedition 69 crew will undertake a series of intricate research, maintenance, and robotics activities. These endeavors will support ongoing scientific investigations and operational tasks, ultimately pushing the boundaries of our understanding of the cosmos. In the coming weeks, two spacewalks are scheduled, showcasing the awe-inspiring work of the crew members on board. On June 9th, US astronauts Stephen Bowen and Woody Hoburg will perform a spacewalk, installing one of the new solar panels on the truss structure. This feat necessitates meticulous planning and precise configuration of their Extravehicular Mobility Units (EMUs) to ensure a seamless and successful spacewalk. The second spacewalk, slated for June 15th, will witness the installation of the second solar array, further solidifying the ISS's enhanced energy generation capabilities.
Beyond the resupply mission, the Cargo Dragon is poised to release several CubeSats into space, each carrying out its own scientific experiments and technological demonstrations. One such CubeSat, aptly named "Moonlighter," serves as a test platform for pioneering advancements in space cybersecurity. The project, known as Hack-A-Sat 4 Final Event, aims to bolster the resilience of space systems against cyber threats, forging a path toward a more secure future in space.
Another remarkable CubeSat endeavor is the Northern SPIRIT project, jointly developed by Yukon University, the Aurora Research Institute, and the University of Alberta. These three satellites will gather crucial data on the ionosphere's magnetic field and study field-aligned currents on a smaller scale. The insights gained from this research will contribute to a deeper understanding of Earth's upper atmosphere and space weather, offering valuable knowledge for future space missions.
Additionally, the RADSAT-SK project, a collaboration between the University of Saskatchewan, Saskatchewan Polytechnic, USST, and the Canadian Space Agency, aims to validate a novel radiation dosimeter and explore the potential use of melanin as a radiation shield in space. By advancing radiation protection measures for astronauts on long-duration space missions, this experiment paves the way for safer and more sustainable space exploration.
The CRS-28 mission will also carry cargo for ongoing scientific experiments that hold great promise. One of these experiments, led by Redwire Space, utilizes their innovative BioFabrication Facility (BFF) to bioprint a human meniscus, a crucial piece of cartilage in the knee joint. By leveraging the microgravity environment aboard the space station, the BFF can print intricate fabrics without the need for support, a constraint encountered when printing on Earth due to the fabrics' susceptibility to collapse under their own weight. This cutting-edge research has the potential to revolutionize regenerative medicine and advance our understanding of tissue engineering.
Pharmaceutical company Bristol Myers Squibb will continue their groundbreaking work on improving the crystallization of biological medicines. These medicines, which are based on proteins derived from living cells, often face challenges in achieving optimal crystallization on Earth due to the effects of gravity. By conducting these experiments in microgravity, researchers hope to enhance the crystallization process and develop more effective therapies for various medical conditions.
Another noteworthy project from Stanford University aims to leverage the microgravity environment to enhance the synthesis of materials used in photovoltaic devices. These devices, responsible for converting sunlight into electricity, play a significant role in the growing adoption of solar energy solutions worldwide. By annealing semiconductor crystals of indium copper sulfide (CuInS2) in microgravity, the research team aims to reduce defects that typically occur during crystal production on Earth. This research has the potential to lead to more efficient and cost-effective photovoltaic devices, thereby advancing renewable energy technologies and addressing global energy challenges.
In addition to these experiments, a team from the University of Southern California plans to utilize Astrobee, NASA's free-flying robotic system aboard the station, to test a novel autonomous spacecraft docking system known as CLINGERS. With the future low-orbit economy in mind, the team aims to combine mechanical docking systems with rendezvous sensors to enable docking with both active and passive objects. The success of this technology could pave the way for the safe and efficient movement of objects in space, which is crucial for the development of an orbiting construction ecosystem and other future space missions.
Contained within the pressurized compartment of the Cargo Dragon, a myriad of scientific experiments await deployment. Researchers seek to refine crystallization methods for biological medicines, leading to more effective drug development and production in microgravity. Other experiments focus on synthesizing materials for enhanced photovoltaic devices, observing storms and lightning activity from space, and studying the effects of environmental stress on plant growth.
These groundbreaking studies promise to expand our scientific knowledge and open doors to new possibilities.
1. Thor-Davis: This European Space Agency (ESA) experiment aims to study storms and electrical activity from the vantage point of the International Space Station (ISS). By observing phenomena such as "blue jets" - recently discovered electrical discharges above thunderstorms - scientists hope to estimate their energy and understand their impact on the atmosphere. This research can enhance atmospheric models and provide valuable insights into climate and weather patterns.
2. Plant Habitat-03 (PH-03): Led by researchers from the University of Florida, this experiment focuses on understanding how plants respond to environmental stress, including spaceflight. It explores epigenetic changes, where additional information is added to the DNA of plants without altering its sequence. By examining whether these adaptations can be transferred to the next generation and if they stabilize over time, scientists aim to optimize plant growth for future space missions and potentially enable sustainable food production in space.
3. Genes in Space-10: This experiment investigates the lengthening of telomeres, which are protective structures at the ends of chromosomes, in microgravity. Conducted as part of a national competition for students, the experiment explores whether telomere elongation in space is linked to an increase in stem cells. Understanding the mechanism behind telomere lengthening could provide insights into the effects of long-duration space missions on astronaut health and contribute to various research areas related to space travel.
4. Mission 26/Nanoracks ESSENCE: In this mission, a CubeSat named ESSENCE, developed by universities in Canada and Australia, is deployed from the Nanoracks Cubesat Deployer. ESSENCE carries a wide-angle camera to monitor melting and permafrost in the Canadian Arctic, aiming to improve understanding of climate change effects and support infrastructure planning. Additionally, it carries a solar-powered proton detector to collect data on solar proton events, which can cause radiation damage to spacecraft. This research can aid in designing more radiation-resistant Cubesats in the future.
5. Nanoracks IRIS: Led by the University of Manitoba and sponsored by the ISS National Laboratory, this experiment focuses on observing the weathering of geological samples due to solar and cosmic radiation. The researchers aim to determine if these changes are visually detectable over short time scales. The project also involves testing solar sensors, torque rods, and a battery heater. The findings could enhance understanding of weathering processes on planetary bodies, complement asteroid sampling missions, and promote science education and careers through student involvement.
LAUNCH, LANDING OF THE 'CORE' AND SPACESHIP DEPLOYMENT
All approximate times
00:00:00 Take off
00:01:12 Max Q (moment of maximum mechanical stress on the rocket)
00:02:27 Cutting of the 1st stage engines (MECO)
00 :02:30 Separate 1st and 2nd stages
00:02:38 2nd stage engine lights up
00:02:42 1st stage boost back ignition starts
00:03:15 1st stage boost back ignition completed
00:05:45 1st stage re-entry ignition starts
00:05:59 2nd stage engine cut (SECO-1)
00:07:06 Start of 1st stage landing ignition
00:07:33 1st stage landing
00:08:37 Dragon separates from the 2nd stage
00:11:49 Nose opening sequence starts