Following closely on the heels of Thursday’s spectacular Atlas V rocket blastoff from Cape Canaveral and a last moment computer failure at the ISS over the weekend, an upgraded Space X Falcon 9 rocket is now poised to launch on Monday (April 14) and complete a double barreled salvo of liftoffs from the Florida Space Coast merely 4 days apart – if all goes well.
The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying a Dragon resupply freighter is slated to launch on Monday at 4:58 p.m. EDT, 2058 GMT, from Launch Complex 40 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla.
Update 4/14- 345 PM: Todays launch attempt scrubbed due to 1st stage Helium leak. Friday is earliest target date
This flight marks the third operational Dragon resupply mission to the 1 million pound International Space Station (ISS).
You can watch the launch live on NASA TV : http://www.nasa.gov/ntv
NASA TV live coverage will begin at 3:45 p.m. EDT and conclude at approximately 5:20 p.m.
Weather forecasters are predicting an 80 percent chance of favorable weather conditions at the scheduled liftoff time.
Monday’s launch was temporarily put in doubt by the unexpected loss on Friday (April 11) of a backup computer command relay box called a multiplexer/demultiplexer (MDM) that resides in the station’s S0 truss.
The primary MDM continued to function normally.
The MDM’s provide commanding to the station’s external cooling system, Solar Alpha Rotary joints, Mobile Transporter rail car and insight into other truss systems.
It must function in order for the astronauts to use the robotic arm to grapple and berth the Dragon at a station docking port when it arrives on Wednesday, April 16, at about 7 a.m. EDT.
NASA managers held an extensive series of review meetings since Friday with ISS program managers, station partners, and SpaceX to exhaustively consider all possibilities and insure it was safe to fly the Dragon mission.
NASA gave the final go ahead after a readiness review this Sunday morning of managers, engineers and flight controllers.
ISS crew members will conduct a spacewalk to replace the failed MDM unit after the Dragon arrives.
This unmanned SpaceX mission dubbed CRS-3 mission will deliver some 5000 pounds of science experiments, a pair of hi tech legs for Robonaut 2, a high definition imaging camera suite, an optical communications experiment (OPALS) and essential gear, the VEGGIE lettuce growing experiment, spare parts, crew provisions, food, clothing and supplies to the six person crews living and working aboard the ISS soaring in low Earth orbit under NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) contract.
This launch has already been postponed twice since mid-March.
The original March 16 launch target was postponed 2 days before liftoff due to contamination issues with insulation blankets located inside the unpressurized trunk section of Dragon.
The second postponement from March 30 occurred when an electrical short knocked out the critical Air Force tracking required to insure a safe launch from the Eastern Range in case the rocket veers off course towards populated ares and has to be destroyed in a split second.
SpaceX is under contract to NASA to deliver 20,000 kg (44,000 pounds) of cargo to the ISS during a dozen Dragon cargo spacecraft flights over the next few years at a cost of about $1.6 Billion.
To date SpaceX has completed two operational cargo resupply missions and a test flight. The last flight dubbed CRS-2 blasted off a year ago on March 1, 2013 atop the initial version of the Falcon 9 rocket.Another major goal for SpaceX with this launch involves the attachment of landing legs to the first stage of the firm’s next-generation Falcon 9 rocket that counts as a major first step towards a future goal of building a fully reusable rocket.
For this Falcon 9 flight, the rocket will sprout legs for a controlled soft landing in the Atlantic Ocean, guided by SpaceX engineers.
Eventually SpaceX will test land landings in a ramped up series of rocket tests
Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing SpaceX, Orbital Sciences, commercial space, Orion, Chang’e-3, LADEE, Mars rover, MAVEN, MOM and more planetary and human spaceflight news.