SpaceX Commercial Dragon Resupply Ship Thunders to Space Bound for ISS and Easter Sunday Berthing – Photo Gallery

by Ken Kremer on April 18, 2014

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SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon resupply ship launch from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on April 18, 2014.   Credit:  Jeff Seibert/Wired4Space

SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon resupply ship launch from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on April 18, 2014. Credit: Jeff Seibert/Wired4Space
See expanding launch gallery below

A mighty SpaceX rocket carrying the firms commercial Dragon resupply ship loaded with nearly 2.5 tons of NASA science instruments and critical supplies thundered to space this afternoon on a two day journey bound for the International Space Station.

The Dragon vessel launched atop the 20 story tall, upgraded Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida precisely on time at 3:25 p.m. EDT (1925 GMT), Friday, April 18.

“I want to congratulate SpaceX. Everyone did a great job” said William Gerstenmaier, NASA associate administrator for human exploration and operations, at a post launch briefing at the Kennedy Space Center press site.

“The SpaceX team went the extra mile to get everything ready for an on time launch.”

The spectacular blastoff went off without a hitch despite a poor weather prognosis in the morning that brightened considerably in the final hours leading up to the afternnon liftoff.

“Everything went well with the ascent,” said SpaceX CEO and founder Elon Muck at the briefing.

“I’m pretty excited. We did a good gob for our NASA customer and that’s very important,” Musk added.

The on time blastoff sets the stage for an Easter Sunday, April 20, rendezvous and berthing of the Dragon resupply spacecraft at the massive orbiting outpost packed with a striking variety of science experiments and needed supplies for the six person crew.

Station crew members Rick Mastracchio and Steven Swanson will grapple the Dragon cargo freighter with the 57 foot long Canadarm2 on Easter Sunday at about 7:14 a.m. if all goes well and then berth it at the Earth-facing port of the Harmony module.

The SpaceX-3 mission marks the company’s third resupply mission to the ISS under a $1.6 Billion contract with NASA to deliver 20,000 kg (44,000 pounds) of cargo to the ISS during a dozen Dragon cargo spacecraft flights through 2016.

There are over 150 science experiments loaded aboard the Dragon capsule for research to be conducted by the crews of ISS Expeditions 39 and 40.

“SpaceX is delivering important research experiments and cargo to the space station,” said Gerstenmaier.

SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket clears the tree line on April 18, 2014 on science mission bound for the ISS from Cape Canaveral, Florida   Credit:  Nicole Solomon

SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket clears the tree line on April 18, 2014 on science mission bound for the ISS from Cape Canaveral, Florida. Credit: Nicole Solomon

“The diversity and number of new experiments is phenomenal. The investigations aboard Dragon will help us improve our understanding of how humans adapt to living in space for long periods of time and help us develop technologies that will enable deep space exploration.”

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.

Robonaut 2 engineering model equipped with new legs like those heading to the ISS on upcoming SpaceX CRS-3 launch were on display at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex on March 15, 2014. Credit: Ken Kremer - kenkremer.com

Robonaut 2 engineering model equipped with new legs like those heading to the ISS on upcoming SpaceX CRS-3 launch were on display at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex on March 15, 2014. Credit: Ken Kremer – kenkremer.com

To date SpaceX had 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.

The next launch of Orbital Sciences Antares/Cygnus commercial rocket to the ISS from NASA Wallops, VA, was tentatively slated for May 6. But the target date will now slip to into mid-June since it can’t arrive until the Dragon departs.

Blastoff of SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on April18, 2014.   Credit:  Alan Walters/AmericaSpace

Blastoff of SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on April18, 2014. Credit: Alan Walters/AmericaSpace

Both the Dragon and Antares dock at the same port on the Harmony module at the end of the station.

This extra powerful new version of the Falcon 9 dubbed v1.1 is powered by a cluster of nine of SpaceX’s new Merlin 1D engines that are about 50% more powerful compared to the standard Merlin 1C engines. The nine Merlin 1D engines 1.3 million pounds of thrust at sea level rises to 1.5 million pounds as the rocket climbs to orbit

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.

Ken Kremer

SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket liftoff on April 18, 2014 from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral, Fla.  Credit: Julian Leek

SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket liftoff on April 18, 2014 from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral, Fla. Credit: Julian Leek

Blastoff of SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on April18, 2014.   Credit:  John Studwell

Blastoff of SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on April 18, 2014. Credit: John Studwell/AmericaSpace

Liftoff of SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla, April 18, 2014.   Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com

Liftoff of SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla, April 18, 2014. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launches from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on April18, 2014.   Credit:   NASA TV

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launches from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on April 18, 2014. Credit: NASA TV

About 

Dr. Ken Kremer is a speaker, scientist, freelance science journalist (Princeton, NJ) and photographer whose articles, space exploration images and Mars mosaics have appeared in magazines, books, websites and calanders including Astronomy Picture of the Day, NBC, BBC, SPACE.com, Spaceflight Now and the covers of Aviation Week & Space Technology, Spaceflight and the Explorers Club magazines. Ken has presented at numerous educational institutions, civic & religious organizations, museums and astronomy clubs. Ken has reported first hand from the Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral and NASA Wallops on over 40 launches including 8 shuttle launches. He lectures on both Human and Robotic spaceflight - www.kenkremer.com. Follow Ken on Facebook and Twitter

Aqua4U April 18, 2014 at 7:52 PM

Repeatability the keyword ere… The delays? are to be expected with due diligence applied… GO! Space-X!

postman1 April 18, 2014 at 9:25 PM

Great job, SpaceX, but what happened with the first stage and its legs? How did the water landing go? Did they abort the soft landing? Or, weren’t they attempting that on this flight?

Ken Kremer April 18, 2014 at 9:28 PM

upcoming story

Ken Kremer April 19, 2014 at 9:55 AM
eSpace April 18, 2014 at 9:53 PM

postman1 — Last word from Spacex was that the telemetry indicated a “good” landing in the water. Transmissions from onboard flight computers continued for 8 seconds after dropping in, but stopped when the first stage “went horizontal”. Ships en route, but heavy seas slowing things.

Not a lot of info, but sounds encouraging and I’m sure Ken will have all the latest and greatest for us soon. Hope the external camera they use during boost phase was running during re-entry!

postman1 April 19, 2014 at 9:18 AM

Thank you both for the update! This is great news! These are exciting times to live in.

Beckler April 18, 2014 at 10:49 PM

Their new F9R test video w/landing legs is simply phenomenal:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0UjWqQPWmsY

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