SpaceX Falcon 9 and Dragon CRS-6 set for April 13 Launch to ISS and Historic Landing Attempt

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FL – Now just a day away, all systems are “GO” for blastoff of the next SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the Dragon CRS-6 cargo capsule on Monday, April 13, on a mission to the International Space Station (ISS) and a near simultaneous historic attempt to soft land the boosters first stage on a barge in a remote area of the Atlantic Ocean, hundreds of miles offshore from the US eastern seaboard.

In advance of Mondays launch attempt, SpaceX engineers successfully completed the practice countdown dress rehearsal and required static fire engine test this afternoon, Saturday, April 11, to ensure everything is ready with the rocket and first Stage Merlin 1-D engines for a safe and successful mission to the orbiting outpost.

The Dragon capsule has already been loaded with most of the cargo bound for the space station and was mated to the Falcon 9 booster earlier this week.

Although it is raining heavily now around the Florida Space Coast region along with multiple tornado warning threats, NASA and SpaceX officials are hopeful that weather conditions will clear sufficiently to permit Monday’s planned launch.

U.S. Air Force weather forecasters from the 45th Weather Squadron currently rate the chances of favorable conditions at launch time as 60 percent GO for liftoff of the sixth SpaceX commercial resupply services mission (CRS-6) to the ISS.

Static fire engine test completed on April 11, 2015 in advance of April 13 launch attempt to the International Space Station. Credit: SpaceX
Static fire engine test completed on April 11, 2015 in advance of April 13 launch attempt to the International Space Station. Credit: SpaceX

SpaceX and NASA are targeting blastoff of the Falcon 9 and Dragon CRS-6 spacecraft for Monday, April 13, slated at approximately 4:33 p.m. EDT from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

NASA Television plans live launch coverage starting at 3:30 p.m EDT: http://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/nasatv/index.html

SpaceX also plans live launch coverage beginning at 4:15pm EDT: www.spacex.com/webcast

The launch window is instantaneous, meaning that the rocket must liftoff at the precisely appointed time. Any delays due to weather or technical factors will force a scrub.

If all goes well with Mondays launch attempt, the Dragon spacecraft will rendezvous with the Earth orbiting outpost Wednesday, April 15, after a two day orbital chase.

In the event of a scrub for any reason, the backup launch day is 24 hours later on Tuesday, April 14, at approximately 4:10 p.m.

The Falcon 9 first stage is outfitted with four landing legs and grid fins to enable the landing attempt, which is a secondary objective of SpaceX. Cargo delivery to the station is the overriding primary objective and the entire reason for the CRS-6 mission.

The SpaceX plan is to direct the spent 1st stage on a precision guided rocket assisted descent from high altitude to accomplish a pinpoint soft landing onto a tiny platform in the middle of a vast ocean.

The ocean-going barge is known as the ‘autonomous spaceport drone ship’ (ASDS). It is being positioned some 200 to 250 miles offshore of the Carolina’s in the Atlantic Ocean along the rockets flight path flying along the US Northeast coast to match that of the ISS.

The ASDS measures only 300 by 100 feet, with wings that extend its width to 170 feet.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon cargo ship are set to liftoff on a resupply mission to the International Space Station (ISS) from launch pad 40 at Cape Canaveral, Florida on Jan. 6, 2015. File photo.  Credit: Ken Kremer – kenkremer.com
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon cargo ship are set to liftoff on a resupply mission to the International Space Station (ISS) from launch pad 40 at Cape Canaveral, Florida. File photo. Credit: Ken Kremer – kenkremer.com

This marks the 2nd attempt by SpaceX to recovery the 14 story tall Falcon 9 first stage booster on the ASDS barge.

The first attempt in January during the CRS-5 mission was largely successful, as I wrote earlier at Universe Today, despite making a ‘hard landing’ on the ASDS. The booster did make it to the drone ship, positioned some 200 miles offshore of the Florida-Carolina coast, northeast of the launch site in the Atlantic Ocean. The rocket broke into pieces upon hitting the barge.

Overall CRS-6 is the sixth SpaceX commercial resupply services mission and the seventh trip by a Dragon spacecraft to the station since 2012.

CRS-6 marks the company’s sixth operational 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 station during a dozen Dragon cargo spacecraft flights through 2016 under NASA’s original Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) contract.

Dragon is packed with more than 4,300 pounds (1915 kilograms) of scientific experiments, technology demonstrations, crew supplies, spare parts, food, water, clothing and assorted research gear for the six person Expedition 43 and 44 crews serving aboard the ISS.

Dragon cargo vessel ready for mating to SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket for CRS-6 mission launch to the International Space Station (ISS) scheduled for April 13, 2015. Credit: SpaceX
Dragon cargo vessel ready for mating to SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket for CRS-6 mission launch to the International Space Station (ISS) scheduled for April 13, 2015. Credit: SpaceX

The ship will remain berthed at the ISS for about five weeks.

The ISS cannot function without regular deliveries of fresh cargo by station partners from Earth.

Watch for Ken’s continuing onsite coverage of the CRS-6 launch from the Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Earth and planetary science and human spaceflight news.

Ken Kremer

Dragon cargo vessel being mated to SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket for CRS-6 mission launch to the International Space Station (ISS) scheduled for April 13, 2015. Credit: SpaceX
Dragon cargo vessel being mated to SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket for CRS-6 mission launch to the International Space Station (ISS) scheduled for April 13, 2015. Credit: SpaceX

………….

Learn more about SpaceX, Mars rovers, Orion, Antares, MMS, NASA missions and more at Ken’s upcoming outreach events:

Apr 11-13: “SpaceX, Orion, Commercial crew, Curiosity explores Mars, MMS, Antares and more,” Kennedy Space Center Quality Inn, Titusville, FL, evenings

Apr 18/19: “Curiosity explores Mars” and “NASA Human Spaceflight programs” – NEAF (NorthEast Astronomy Forum), 9 AM to 5 PM, Suffern, NY, Rockland Community College and Rockland Astronomy Club

SpaceX Resets CRS-6 Space Station Launch to April 13 with Booster Landing Attempt

The clock is ticking towards the next launch of a SpaceX cargo vessel to the International Space Station (ISS) hauling critical supplies to the six astronauts and cosmonauts serving aboard, that now includes the first ever ‘One-Year Mission’ station crew comprising NASA’s Scott Kelly and Russia’s Mikhail Kornienko.

The mission, dubbed SpaceX CRS-6 (Commercial Resupply Services-6) will also feature the next daring attempt by SpaceX to recover the Falcon 9 booster rocket through a precision guided soft landing onto an ocean-going barge.

SpaceX and NASA are now targeting blastoff of the Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft for Monday, April 13, just over a week from now, at approximately 4:33 p.m. EDT from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

NASA Television plans live launch coverage starting at 3:30 p.m.

The launch window is instantaneous, meaning that the rocket must liftoff at the precisely appointed time. Any delays due to weather or technical factors will force a scrub.

The backup launch day in case of a 24 hour scrub is Tuesday, April 14, at approximately 4:10 p.m.

Falcon 9 launches have been delayed due to issues with the rockets helium pressurization bottles that required investigation.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon cargo ship are set to liftoff on a resupply mission to the International Space Station (ISS) from launch pad 40 at Cape Canaveral, Florida on Jan. 6, 2015. File photo.  Credit: Ken Kremer – kenkremer.com
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon cargo ship are set to liftoff on a resupply mission to the International Space Station (ISS) from launch pad 40 at Cape Canaveral, Florida. File photo. Credit: Ken Kremer – kenkremer.com

The Falcon 9 first stage is outfitted with four landing legs and grid fins to enable the landing attempt, which is a secondary objective of SpaceX. Cargo delivery to the station is the overriding primary objective and the entire reason for the mission.

An on time launch on April 13 will result in the Dragon spacecraft rendezvousing with the Earth orbiting outpost Wednesday, April 15 after a two day orbital chase.

After SpaceX engineers on the ground maneuver the Dragon close enough to the station, European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti will use the station’s 57.7-foot-long (17-meter-long) robotic arm to reach out and capture Dragon at approximately 7:14 a.m. EDT on April 15.

Cristoforetti will be assisted by fellow Expedition 43 crew member and NASA astronaut Terry Virts, as they work inside the stations seven windowed domed cupola to berth Dragon at the Earth-facing port of the Harmony module.

SpaceX Dragon cargo ship approaches ISS, ready for grappling by astronauts. Credit: NASA
SpaceX Dragon cargo ship approaches ISS, ready for grappling by astronauts. Credit: NASA

Overall CRS-6 is the sixth SpaceX commercial resupply services mission and the seventh trip by a Dragon spacecraft to the station since 2012.

CRS-6 marks the company’s sixth operational 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 station during a dozen Dragon cargo spacecraft flights through 2016 under NASA’s original Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) contract.

Dragon is packed with more than 4,300 pounds (1915 kilograms) of scientific experiments, technology demonstrations, crew supplies, spare parts, food, water, clothing and assorted research gear for the six person Expedition 43 and 44 crews serving aboard the ISS.

The ship will remain berthed at the ISS for about five weeks.

The ISS cannot function without regular deliveries of fresh cargo by station partners from Earth.

The prior resupply mission, CRS-5, concluded in February with a successful Pacific Ocean splashdown and capsule recovery.

Introducing Landing Complex 1, formerly Launch Complex 13, at Cape Canaveral in Florida.  Credit: SpaceX
Introducing Landing Complex 1, formerly Launch Complex 13, at Cape Canaveral in Florida. Credit: SpaceX

The CRS-5 mission also featured SpaceX’s history making attempt at recovering the Falcon 9 first stage as a first of its kind experiment to accomplish a pinpoint soft landing of a rocket onto a tiny platform in the middle of a vast ocean using a rocket assisted descent.

As I wrote earlier at Universe Today, despite making a ‘hard landing’ on the vessel dubbed the ‘autonomous spaceport drone ship,’ the 14 story tall Falcon 9 first stage did make it to the drone ship, positioned some 200 miles offshore of the Florida-Carolina coast, northeast of the launch site in the Atlantic Ocean. The rocket broke into pieces upon hitting the barge.

Listen to my live radio interview with BBC 5LIVE conducted in January 2015, discussing SpaceX’s first attempt to land and return their Falcon-9 booster.

Watch for Ken’s onsite coverage of the CRS-6 launch from the Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Earth and planetary science and human spaceflight news.

Ken Kremer

Good Morning, Space Station … A Dragon Soars Soon!

Good Morning, Space Station!

It’s sunrise from space – one of 16 that occur daily as the massive lab complex orbits the Earth about every 90 minutes while traveling swiftly at about 17,500 mph and an altitude of about 250 miles (400 kilometers).

Just stare in amazement at this gorgeous sunrise view of “Our Beautiful Earth” taken earlier today, Jan. 3, 2015, aboard the International Space Station (ISS) by crewmate and NASA astronaut Barry “Butch” Wilmore.

And smack dab in the middle is the Canadian-built robotic arm that will soon snatch a soaring Dragon!

Wilmore is the commander of the ISS Expedition 42 crew of six astronauts and cosmonauts hailing from three nations: America, Russia and Italy.

He is accompanied by astronauts Terry Virts from NASA and Samantha Cristoforetti from the European Space Agency (ESA) as well as by cosmonauts Aleksandr Samokutyayev, Yelena Serova, and Anton Shkaplerov from Russia.

All told the crew of four men and two women see 16 sunrises and 16 sunsets each day. During the daylight periods, temperatures reach 200 ºC, while temperatures plunge drastically during the night periods to -200 ºC.

Here’s another beautiful ISS sunset view captured on Christmas by Terry Virts:

Astronaut Terry Virts on the International Space Station shared this beautiful sunrise image on Twitter saying "Sunrise on Christmas morning - better than any present I could ask for!!!!"  Credit: NASA/Terry Virts
Astronaut Terry Virts on the International Space Station shared this beautiful sunrise image on Twitter saying “Sunrise on Christmas morning – better than any present I could ask for!!!!” Credit: NASA/Terry Virts

Virts tweeted the picture and wrote: “Sunrise on Christmas morning – better than any present I could ask for!!!!”

Another treasure from Virts shows the many splendid glorious colors of Earth seen from space but not from the ground:

“In space you see intense colors, shades of blue that I’d never seen before,” says NASA astronaut Terry Virts. Credit: NASA/@astro_terry
Sunset Over the Gulf of Mexico
“In space you see intense colors, shades of blue that I’d never seen before,” says NASA astronaut Terry Virts. Credit: NASA/@astro_terry

“In space you see intense colors, shades of blue that I’d never seen before,” says Virts from his social media accounts (http://instagram.com/astro_terry/) (http://instagram.com/iss).

“It’s been said a thousand times but it’s true: There are no borders that you can see from space, just one beautiful planet,” he says. “If everyone saw the Earth through that lens I think it would be a much better place.”

And many of the crews best images are taken from or of the 7 windowed Cupola.

Here’s an ultra cool shot of Butch waving Hi!

“Hi from the cupola!” #AstroButch.  Credit: NASA/ISS
“Hi from the cupola!” #AstroButch. Credit: NASA/ISS

And they all eagerly await the launch and arrival of a Dragon! Indeed it’s the SpaceX cargo Dragon currently slated for liftoff in three days on Tuesday, Jan. 6.

Weather odds are currently 60% favorable for launch of the unmanned space station resupply ship on the SpaceX CRS-5 mission.

The launch was postponed from Dec. 19 when a static fire test of the first stage engines on Dec. 17 shut down prematurely.

A second static fire test of the SpaceX Falcon 9 went the full duration of approximately 3 seconds and cleared the path for a liftoff attempt after the Christmas holidays.

New countdown clock at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center displays SpaceX Falcon 9 CRS-5 mission and recent Orion ocean recovery at the Press Site viewing area on Dec. 18, 2014.  Credit: Ken Kremer – kenkremer.com
New countdown clock at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center displays SpaceX Falcon 9 CRS-5 mission and recent Orion ocean recovery at the Press Site viewing area on Dec. 18, 2014. Credit: Ken Kremer – kenkremer.com

CRS-5 is slated to blast off at 6:20 a.m. EST Tuesday, Jan. 6, 2015, atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

NASA Television live launch coverage begins at 5 a.m. EST.

Assuming all goes well, Dragon will rendezvous at the ISS on Thursday, Jan. 8, for grappling and berthing by the astronauts maneuvering the 57 foot-long (22 m) Canadian built robotic arm.

Remember that you can always try and catch of glimpse of the ISS flying overhead by checking NASA’s Spot the Station website with a complete list of locations.

It’s easy to plug in and determine visibilities in your area worldwide.

And don’t forget to catch up on the Christmas holiday and New Year’s 2015 imagery and festivities from the station crews in my recent stories – here, here and here.

Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Earth and planetary science and human spaceflight news.

Ken Kremer

Happy New Year! Celebrating from space with @AstroTerry.  Credit: NASA/Terry Virts
Happy New Year! Celebrating from space with @AstroTerry. Credit: NASA/Terry Virts
ISS Expedition 42. Credit: NASA/ESA/Roscosmos
ISS Expedition 42. Credit: NASA/ESA/Roscosmos

Spectacular Earth Timelapse Video: Christmas Gift from Alexander Gerst’s 2014 ISS Voyage

Video Caption: Watch the Earth roll by through the perspective of German astronaut Alexander Gerst in this 4K six-minute timelapse video of images taken from on board the International Space Station (ISS) during 2014. Credit: Alexander Gerst/ESA

ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst from Germany who recently returned from a six month voyage to the International Space Station (ISS) has a special Christmas gift for all – a stunning six-minute timelapse compilation of his favorite images of Earth taken during his “Blue Dot” mission in 2014.

“A 4K timelapse showing our planet in motion, from my favourite Earth images taken during the Blue Dot mission,” wrote Gerst in connection with his spectacular timelapse video released to coincide with Christmastime.

“I wish all of you a merry Christmas! It was a wild year for me, thanks for joining me on this fascinating journey!” said Gerst in English.

“Wünsche euch allen fröhliche Weihnachten! War ein wildes Jahr für mich, vielen Dank, dass ihr mit dabei wart!” said Gerst in German.

You can watch the Earth roll by through Gerst’s perspective in this six-minute timelapse video combining over 12,500 images taken during his six-month mission aboard the ISS that shows the best our beautiful planet has to offer.

“Marvel at the auroras, sunrises, clouds, stars, oceans, the Milky Way, the International Space Station, lightning, cities at night, spacecraft and the thin band of atmosphere that protects us from space,” according to the video’s description.

Gerst would often would set cameras to automatically take pictures at regular intervals while doing his science research or preparing for the docking of other spacecraft at the ISS in order to get the timelapse effect shown in the video.

“Scary. The sunlight is far from reaching down the abyss of Neoguri's 65 km-wide eye.” Taken from the ISS on 8 July 2014. Credit: ESA/NASA/Alexander Gerst
“Scary. The sunlight is far from reaching down the abyss of Neoguri’s 65 km-wide eye.” Taken from the ISS on 8 July 2014. Credit: ESA/NASA/Alexander Gerst

The robotic arm capture and berthing of the SpaceX Dragon cargo ship and the release of the Orbital Sciences Cygnus cargo freighter are particularly magnificent in a rarely seen timelapse glimpse of visiting vehicles that are absolutely essential to keeping the station afloat, stocked, and humming with research activities.

Gerst served aboard the ISS between May and November this year as a member of the Expedition 40 and 41 crews.

Gerst launched to the ISS on his rookie space flight on May 28, 2014, aboard the Russian Soyuz TMA-13M capsule along with Russian cosmonaut Maxim Suraev and NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman.

They joined the three station flyers already aboard – cosmonauts Alexander Skvortsov & Oleg Artemyev, and astronaut Steve Swanson – to restore the station crew complement to six.

Gerst and Wiseman became well known and regarded for their prolific and expertly crafted photography skills.

ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst, Russian commander Maxim Suraev and NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman returned to Earth on 10 November 2014, landing in the Kazakh steppe.  Credit: ESA–S. Corvaja
ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst, Russian commander Maxim Suraev, and NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman returned to Earth on 10 November 2014, landing in the Kazakh steppe. Credit: ESA–S. Corvaja

They returned to Earth safely on Nov. 10, 2014, with a soft landing on the Kazakh steppes.

Alex is Germany’s third astronaut to visit the ISS. He conducted a spacewalk with Wiseman on Oct. 7 while aboard. He is trained as a geophysicist and a volcanologist.

ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst spent six hours and 13 minutes outside the International Space Station with NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman on Tuesday, 7 October 2014. This was the first spacewalk for both astronauts but they performed well in the weightlessness of orbit.  Credit: NASA/ESA
ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst spent six hours and 13 minutes outside the International Space Station with NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman on Tuesday, 7 October 2014. This was the first spacewalk for both astronauts but they performed well in the weightlessness of orbit. Credit: NASA/ESA

Read my story detailing Christmas 2014 festivities with the new crews at the ISS – here.

Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Earth and planetary science and human spaceflight news.

Ken Kremer

Rocket Issues force SpaceX and NASA to Postpone Falcon 9 Rocket Launch to January 2015

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FL – Due to technical problems encountered during a hot fire test of the first stage engines this week with the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, the planned Dec. 19 launch of the commercial rocket and NASA contracted Dragon cargo freighter to the International Space Station (ISS) on a critical resupply mission has been postponed a few weeks into the new year to Jan. 6 at the earliest “out of an abundance of caution,” SpaceX officials told Universe Today.

Prior to every launch, SpaceX performs an internally required full countdown dress rehearsal and hot fire test of the first stage propulsion systems.

The hot fire test attempted on Tuesday “did not run for its full duration” of about three seconds, SpaceX spokesman John Taylor confirmed to me.

Therefore SpaceX and NASA managers decided to postpone the launch in order to run another static fire test.

“We are opting to execute a second static fire test prior to launch,” Taylor said.

In light of the catastrophic failure of the Orbital Sciences Antares rocket and Cygnus cargo freighter, everything must be done to ensure a launch success.

Due to the large amount of work required to test and analyze all rocket systems and the impending Christmas holidays, the earliest opportunity to launch is Jan. 6.

SpaceX Falcon 9 first stage rocket will attempt precison landing on this autonomous spaceport drone ship soon after launch set for Dec. 19, 2014 from Cape Canaveral, Florida.  Credit: SpaceX/Elon Musk
SpaceX Falcon 9 first stage rocket will attempt precision landing on this autonomous spaceport drone ship soon after launch now reset for Jan. 6, 2015, from Cape Canaveral, Florida. Credit: SpaceX/Elon Musk

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the Dragon cargo freighter had been slated to liftoff on its next unmanned cargo run dubbed CRS-5 to the ISS under NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) contract.

Here is the full update from SpaceX.

“While the recent static fire test accomplished nearly all of our goals, the test did not run the full duration. The data suggests we could push forward without a second attempt, but out of an abundance of caution, we are opting to execute a second static fire test prior to launch.”

“Given the extra time needed for data review and testing, coupled with the limited launch date availability due to the holidays and other restrictions, our earliest launch opportunity is now Jan. 6 with Jan. 7 as a backup.

New countdown clock at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center displays SpaceX Falcon 9 CRS-5 mission and recent Orion ocean recovery at the Press Site viewing area on Dec. 18, 2014.  Credit: Ken Kremer – kenkremer.com
New countdown clock at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center displays SpaceX Falcon 9 CRS-5 mission and recent Orion ocean recovery at the Press Site viewing area on Dec. 18, 2014. Credit: Ken Kremer – kenkremer.com

“The ISS orbits through a high beta angle period a few times a year. This is where the angle between the ISS orbital plane and the sun is high, resulting in the ISS’ being in almost constant sunlight for a 10 day period.

“During this time, there are thermal and operational constraints that prohibit Dragon from being allowed to berth with the ISS. This high beta period runs from 12/28/14-1/7/15”

“Note that for a launch on 1/6 , Dragon berths on 1/8.”

“Both Falcon 9 and Dragon remain in good health, and our teams are looking forward to launch just after the New Year.”

Watch for Ken’s ongoing SpaceX launch coverage from onsite at the Kennedy Space Center.

Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Earth and planetary science and human spaceflight news.

Ken Kremer

SpaceX Falcon 9 Rocket to Attempt Daring Ocean Platform Landing with Next Launch

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FL – In a key test of rocket reusability, SpaceX will attempt a daring landing of their Falcon 9 first stage rocket on an ocean platform known as the “autonomous spaceport drone ship” following the planned Friday, Dec. 19, blastoff on a high stakes mission to the International Space Station (ISS).

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the Dragon cargo freighter is slated to liftoff on its next unmanned cargo run, dubbed CRS-5, to the ISS under NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) contract. In a late development, there is a possibility the launch could be postponed to January 2015.

The instantaneous launch window for the Falcon 9/Dragon is slated for 1:20 p.m from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

As the Dragon proceeds to orbit, SpaceX engineers will attempt to recover the Falcon 9 first stage via a precision landing for the first time “on a custom-built ocean platform known as the autonomous spaceport drone ship,” according to a SpaceX statement.

Testing operation of Falcon 9 hypersonic grid fins (x-wing config) launching on next Falcon 9 flight, CRS-5.   Credit: SpaceX/Elon Musk
Testing operation of Falcon 9 hypersonic grid fins (x-wing config) launching on next Falcon 9 flight, CRS-5. Credit: SpaceX/Elon Musk

“While SpaceX has already demonstrated two successful soft water landings, executing a precision landing on an unanchored ocean platform is significantly more challenging.”

SpaceX rates the chances of success at “perhaps 50% at best.”

Of course since this has never been attempted before, tons of planning is involved and lots can go wrong.

But this is space exploration, and it’s not for the meek and mild.

It’s time to go boldly where no one has gone before and expand the envelope if we hope to achieve great things.

SpaceX Falcon 9 erect at Cape Canaveral launch pad 40  awaiting launch on Sept 20, 2014 on the CRS-4 mission. Credit: Ken Kremer - kenkremer.com
A SpaceX Falcon 9 erect at Cape Canaveral launch pad 40 prior to launch on Sept 20, 2014, on the CRS-4 mission. Credit: Ken Kremer – kenkremer.com

The 14 story Falcon 9 will be zooming upwards at 1300 m/s (nearly 1 mi/s). Engineers will then relight the Merlin 1D first stage engines to stabilize and lower the rocket.

Four hypersonic grid fins had been added to the first stage and placed in an X-wing configuration. They will be deployed only during the reentry attempt and will be used to roll, pitch, and yaw the rocket in concert with gimballing of the engines.

Here’s a description from SpaceX:

“To help stabilize the stage and to reduce its speed, SpaceX relights the engines for a series of three burns. The first burn—the boostback burn—adjusts the impact point of the vehicle and is followed by the supersonic retro propulsion burn that, along with the drag of the atmosphere, slows the vehicle’s speed from 1300 m/s to about 250 m/s. The final burn is the landing burn, during which the legs deploy and the vehicle’s speed is further.”

“To complicate matters further, the landing site is limited in size and not entirely stationary. The autonomous spaceport drone ship is 300 by 100 feet, with wings that extend its width to 170 feet. While that may sound huge at first, to a Falcon 9 first stage coming from space, it seems very small. The legspan of the Falcon 9 first stage is about 70 feet and while the ship is equipped with powerful thrusters to help it stay in place, it is not actually anchored, so finding the bullseye becomes particularly tricky. During previous attempts, we could only expect a landing accuracy of within 10km. For this attempt, we’re targeting a landing accuracy of within 10 meters.”

Watch for Ken’s ongoing SpaceX launch coverage from onsite at the Kennedy Space Center.

Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Earth and planetary science and human spaceflight news.

Ken Kremer

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Learn more about SpaceX, Orion, Antares, NASA missions and more at Ken’s upcoming outreach events:

Dec 18: “SpaceX CRS-5, Orion EFT-1, Antares Orb-3 launch, Curiosity Explores Mars,” Kennedy Space Center Quality Inn, Titusville, FL, evenings

SpaceX Dragon Departs Space Station after Delivering Slew of Science and Returns with Ocean Splashdown

Concluding a busy five week mission, the SpaceX Dragon CRS-4 commercial cargo ship departed the International Space Station (ISS) this morning, Oct. 25, after delivering a slew of some 2.5 tons of ground breaking science experiments and critical supplies that also inaugurated a new era in Earth science at the massive orbiting outpost following installation of the ISS-RapidScat payload.

Dragon was released from the snares of the station’s robotic arm at 9: 57 a.m. EDT while soaring some 250 mi (400 km) over the northwest coast of Australia.

It returned safely to Earth with a splashdown in the Pacific Ocean some six hours later, capping the fourth of SpaceX’s twelve contracted station resupply missions for NASA through 2016.

“The Dragon is free!” exclaimed NASA commentator Rob Navias during a live broadcast on NASA TV following the ungrappling this morning. “The release was very clean.”

Dragon released from snares of ISS robotic arm on Oct. 25, 2014 for return to Earth.  Credit: NASA
Dragon released from snares of ISS robotic arm on Oct. 25, 2014, for return to Earth. Credit: NASA

The private resupply ship was loaded for return to Earth with more than 3,276 pounds of NASA cargo and science samples from the station crew’s investigations on “human research, biology and biotechnology studies, physical science investigations, and education activities sponsored by NASA and the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space, the nonprofit organization responsible for managing research aboard the U.S. national laboratory portion of the space station,” said NASA.

The release set up a quick series of three burns by the ship’s Draco thrusters designed to carry Dragon safely away from the station.

NASA astronauts Reid Wiseman and Butch Wilmore quickly retracted the arm working from their robotics workstation in the domed Cupola module.

“Thanks for the help down there,” the astronauts radioed. “It was a great day.”

Dragon moves away from ISS on Oct. 25, 2014 for return to Earth.  Credit: NASA  TV
Dragon moves away from ISS on Oct. 25, 2014, for return to Earth. Credit: NASA TV

The first burn took place a minute later at about 9:58 a.m. EDT and the second at about 10:00 a.m. A yaw maneuver at 10:05 a.m. set up the orientation required for the third burn at about 10:08 a.m.

Dragon moved away quickly during the nighttime release and was already outside the Keep Out Sphere (KOS), an imaginary bubble surrounding the station at a distance of 200 m. It disappeared quickly in the dark and was barely visible within minutes.

“The propulsion systems are in good shape,” said Navias. “All systems on Dragon are functioning perfectly.”

With Dragon safely gone following the trio of burns, the next major event was the deorbit burn at 2:43 p.m. EDT at a distance of about 90 statute miles from the station.

Dragon slipped out of orbit. After surviving the scorching heat of reentry through the Earth’s atmosphere, the ship sequentially deployed its drogue chutes and three main parachutes at about 3:30 p.m.

Splashdown in the Pacific Ocean occurred as expected at about 3:39 p.m., approximately 265 miles west of the Baja peninsula.

Dragon is the only vehicle that can return intact from the ISS with a substantial load of cargo and is carrying critical science samples for distribution to researchers.

Today’s Dragon departure starts a week of heavy traffic of comings and goings to the ISS involving a series of US and Russian unmanned cargo ships.

SpaceX Dragon captures view of ISS after departure on Oct. 25, 2014 for return to Earth.  Credit: NASA  TV
SpaceX Dragon captures view of ISS after departure on Oct. 25, 2014, for return to Earth. Credit: NASA TV

The Orbital Sciences Antares rocket with the commercial Cygnus cargo freighter is set to launch on Monday, Oct. 27, from NASA Wallops, VA. It will dock at the ISS on Nov. 2 at the Earth-facing port on the Harmony module just vacated by Dragon.

Russia’s Progress 56 unmanned cargo ship will also undock on Oct. 27. And Progress 57 will launch from Baikonur on Wednesday, Oct 29.

The SpaceX Dragon CRS-4 cargo resupply mission thundered to space on the company’s Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex-40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on Sept. 21.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying a Dragon cargo capsule packed with science experiments and station supplies blasts off from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, at 1:52 a.m. EDT on Sept. 21, 2014 bound for the ISS.  Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying a Dragon cargo capsule packed with science experiments and station supplies blasts off from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, at 1:52 a.m. EDT on Sept. 21, 2014, bound for the ISS. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com

Dragon was successfully berthed at the Harmony module on Sept. 23, 2014.

Among the nearly 5000 pounds of cargo hauled up by Dragon was as an Earth observation platform named ISS-RapidScat loaded in the unpressurized trunk section.

Also loaded aboard were a slew of science experiments, 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.

It also carried the first 3-D printer to space for the first such space based studies ever attempted by the astronaut crews. The printer will remain at the station for at least the next two years.

20 mice housed in a special rodent habitat were also aboard, as well as fruit flies.

The ISS Rapid Scatterometer, or ISS-RapidScat, is NASA’s first research payload aimed at conducting near global Earth science from the station’s exterior and will be augmented with others in coming years.

ISS-RapidScat instrument, shown in this artist's rendering, was launched to the International Space Station aboard the SpaceX CRS-4 mission on Sept. 21, 2014 and attached at ESA’s Columbus module.  It will measure ocean surface wind speed and direction and help improve weather forecasts, including hurricane monitoring. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Johnson Space Center.
ISS-RapidScat instrument, shown in this artist’s rendering, was launched to the International Space Station aboard the SpaceX CRS-4 mission on Sept. 21, 2014, and attached at ESA’s Columbus module. It will measure ocean surface wind speed and direction and help improve weather forecasts, including hurricane monitoring. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Johnson Space Center.

The successful installation and activation of the ISS-RapidScat science instrument on the exterior of Europe’s Columbus module in late September and early October inaugurated a new era in space station science.

RapidScat is designed to monitor ocean winds for climate research, weather predictions, and hurricane monitoring.

The 1280 pound (580 kilogram) experimental instrument is already collecting its first science data following its recent power-on and activation at the station.

SpaceX Falcon 9 erect at Cape Canaveral launch pad 40  awaiting launch on Sept 20, 2014 on the CRS-4 mission. Credit: Ken Kremer - kenkremer.com
SpaceX Falcon 9 with Dragon spaceship erect at Cape Canaveral launch pad 40 awaiting launch on Sept. 21, 2014, on the CRS-4 mission. Credit: Ken Kremer – kenkremer.com

“This mission enabled research critical to achieving NASA’s goal of long-duration human spaceflight in deep space,” said Sam Scimemi, director of the International Space Station division at NASA Headquarters.

“The delivery of the ISS RapidScatterometer advances our understanding of Earth science, and the 3-D printer will enable a critical technology demonstration. Investigations in the returned cargo could aid in the development of more efficient solar cells and semiconductor-based electronics, the development of plants better suited for space, and improvements in sustainable agriculture.”

The next SpacX cargo Dragon on the CRS-5 mission is slated for launch no earlier then Dec. 9.

Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Earth and Planetary science and human spaceflight news.

Ken Kremer

…………….

Learn more about Commercial Space, Orion and NASA Human and Robotic Spaceflight at Ken’s upcoming presentations:

Oct 26/27: “Antares/Cygnus ISS Rocket Launch from Virginia”; Rodeway Inn, Chincoteague, VA

NASA Inaugurates New Space Station Era as Earth Science Observation Platform with RapidScat Instrument

NASA inaugurated a new era of research for the International Space Station (ISS) as an Earth observation platform following the successful installation and activation of the ISS-RapidScat science instrument on the outposts exterior at Europe’s Columbus module.

The ISS Rapid Scatterometer, or ISS-RapidScat, is NASA’s first research payload aimed at conducting near global Earth science from the station’s exterior and will be augmented with others in coming years.

RapidScat is designed to monitor ocean winds for climate research, weather predictions, and hurricane monitoring.

The 1280 pound (580 kilogram) experimental instrument is already collecting its first science data following its recent power-on and activation at the station.

“Its antenna began spinning and it started transmitting and receiving its first winds data on Oct.1,” according to a NASA statement.

The first image from RapidScat was released by NASA on Oct. 6, shown below, and depicts preliminary measurements of global ocean near-surface wind speeds and directions.

Launched Sept. 21, 2014, to the International Space Station, NASA's newest Earth-observing mission, the International Space Station-RapidScat scatterometer to measure global ocean near-surface wind speeds and directions, has returned its first preliminary images.  Credit: NASA-JPL/Caltech
Launched Sept. 21, 2014, to the International Space Station, NASA’s newest Earth-observing mission, the International Space Station-RapidScat scatterometer to measure global ocean near-surface wind speeds and directions, has returned its first preliminary images. Credit: NASA-JPL/Caltech

The $26 million remote sensing instrument uses radar pulses to observe the speed and direction of winds over the ocean for the improvement of weather forecasting.

“Most satellite missions require weeks or even months to produce data of the quality that we seem to be getting from the first few days of RapidScat,” said RapidScat Project Scientist Ernesto Rodriguez of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, which built and manages the mission.

“We have been very lucky that within the first days of operations we have already been able to observe a developing tropical cyclone.

“The quality of these data reflect the level of testing and preparation that the team has put in prior to launch,” Rodriguez said in a NASA statement. “It also reflects the quality of the spare QuikScat hardware from which RapidScat was partially assembled.”

RapidScat, payload was hauled up to the station as part of the science cargo launched aboard the commercial SpaceX Dragon CRS-4 cargo resupply mission that thundered to space on the company’s Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex-40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on Sept. 21.

Dragon was successfully berthed at the Earth-facing port on the station’s Harmony module on Sept 23, as detailed here.

It was robotically assembled and attached to the exterior of the station’s Columbus module using the station’s robotic arm and DEXTRE manipulator over a two day period on Sept 29 and 30.

Ground controllers at Johnson Space Center intricately maneuvered DEXTRE to pluck RapidScat and its nadir adapter from the unpressurized trunk section of the Dragon cargo ship and attached it to a vacant external mounting platform on the Columbus module holding mechanical and electrical connections.

Fascinating: #Canadarm & Dextre installed the #RapidScat Experiment on Columbus! @ISS_Research @NASAJPL @csa_asc. Credit: ESA/NASA/Alexander Gerst
Fascinating: #Canadarm & Dextre installed the #RapidScat Experiment on Columbus! @ISS_Research @NASAJPL @csa_asc. Credit: ESA/NASA/Alexander Gerst

The nadir adapter orients the instrument to point at Earth.

The couch sized instrument and adapter together measure about 49 x 46 x 83 inches (124 x 117 x 211 centimeters).

Engineers are in the midst of a two week check out process that is proceeding normally so far. Another two weeks of calibration work will follow.

Thereafter RapidScat will begin a mission expected to last at least two years, said Steve Volz, associate director for flight programs in the Earth Science Division, NASA Headquarters, Washington, at a prelaunch media briefing at the Kennedy Space Center.

RapidScat is the forerunner of at least five more Earth science observing instruments that will be added to the station by the end of the decade, Volz explained.

The second Earth science instrument, dubbed CATS, could be added by year’s end.

The Cloud-Aerosol Transport System (CATS) is a laser instrument that will measure clouds and the location and distribution of pollution, dust, smoke, and other particulates in the atmosphere.

CATS is slated to launch on the next SpaceX resupply mission, CRS-5, currently targeted to launch from Cape Canaveral, FL, on Dec. 9.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying a Dragon cargo capsule packed with science experiments and station supplies blasts off from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, at 1:52 a.m. EDT on Sept. 21, 2014 bound for the ISS.  Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying a Dragon cargo capsule packed with science experiments and station supplies blasts off from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, at 1:52 a.m. EDT on Sept. 21, 2014, bound for the ISS. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com

This has been a banner year for NASA’s Earth science missions. At least five missions will be launched to space within a 12 month period, the most new Earth-observing mission launches in one year in more than a decade.

ISS-RapidScat is the third of five NASA Earth science missions scheduled to launch over a year.

NASA has already launched the Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) Core Observatory, a joint mission with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency in February, and the Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2) carbon observatory in July 2014.

NASA managers show installed location of ISS-RapidScat instrument on the Columbus module on an ISS scale model at the Kennedy Space Center press site during launch period for the SpaceX CRS-4 Dragon cargo mission.  Posing are Steve Volz, associate director for flight programs in the Earth Science Division, NASA Headquarters, Washington and Howard Eisen, RapidScat Project Manager.  Credit: Ken Kremer - kenkremer.com
NASA managers show installed location of ISS-RapidScat instrument on the ESA Columbus module on an ISS scale model at the Kennedy Space Center press site during launch period for the SpaceX CRS-4 Dragon cargo mission. Posing are Steve Volz, associate director for flight programs in the Earth Science Division, NASA Headquarters, Washington, and Howard Eisen, RapidScat Project Manager. Credit: Ken Kremer – kenkremer.com

Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Earth and Planetary science and human spaceflight news.

Ken Kremer

…………….

Learn more about Commercial Space Taxis, Orion and NASA Human and Robotic Spaceflight at Ken’s upcoming presentations:

Oct 14: “What’s the Future of America’s Human Spaceflight Program with Orion and Commercial Astronaut Taxis” & “Antares/Cygnus ISS Rocket Launches from Virginia”; Princeton University, Amateur Astronomers Assoc of Princeton (AAAP), Princeton, NJ, 7:30 PM

Oct 23/24: “Antares/Cygnus ISS Rocket Launch from Virginia”; Rodeway Inn, Chincoteague, VA

Busy Spaceport: There are Now Five Spaceships Parked at the Space Station

Mars isn’t the only place in the Solar System that was busy this week with arriving spacecraft. While NASA’s MAVEN and ISRO’s MOM arrived in orbit around the Red Planet, the International Space Station also welcomed two arriving spacecraft, bringing the total of docked ships at the ISS to five.

Screenshot from NASA TV of the Soyuz-TMA14M arriving with just one solar panel deployed.
Screenshot from NASA TV of the Soyuz-TMA14M arriving with just one solar panel deployed.

Last night, the Expedition 41/42 crew arrived — peeling in on one solar panel on their Soyuz TMA-14M — with the first female cosmonaut to be part of an ISS crew, Elena Serova along with her crewmates cosmonaut Alexander Samokutyaev, and NASA astronaut Barry Wilmore. They took the Soyuz “fast track,” arriving at the station in just under six hours after launch. One of the craft’s solar panels jammed and couldn’t deploy, but the crew docked to Poisk docking compartment without indecent.

The arrival of Wilmore, Samokutyaev and Serova returns the station’s crew complement to six. Already on board are Commander Max Suraev of Roscosmos, Reid Wiseman of NASA and Alexander Gerst of the European Space Agency. They have been aboard the complex since May.

Suraev, Wiseman and Gerst will return home in November. At that time, Wilmore will become commander of the station for Expedition 42, and the remainder of the Expedition 42 crew will arrive in a new Soyuz.

Earlier this week, on September 23, the SpaceX Dragon capsule arrived with over 2.5 tons of science experiments and supplies for the crew.

Also docked to the space station is the Soyuz ship that will take Suraev, Wiseman and Gerst home, a Progress resupply ship and the European ATV-5 supply ship.

There are two more cargo missions targeted to launch to the space station before the end of the year. Orbital Sciences just announced October 20 as the next launch date for their Cygnus commercial space freighter. It will occupy the same Harmony node port as Dragon when it leaves in a few weeks. When Cygnus vacates the Harmony node port, SpaceX CRS-5 will replace it in December.

Commercial SpaceX Dragon Cargo Capsule Arrives at Space Station

After a two day chase through space, a commercial SpaceX Dragon cargo capsule completed its orbital ballet and arrived at the International Space Station (ISS) today, Sept. 23, packed with some 2.5 tons of ground breaking science experiments and supplies for the human crew.

The Dragon CRS-4 resupply freighter rendezvoused with the station early this morning following a carefully choreographed series of thruster firings that brought the vessel to within a capture distance of some 10 meters (32 feet) beneath the massive orbiting outpost.

Expedition 41 crewmember and European Space Agency astronaut Alexander Gerst then maneuvered the station’s 58-foot Canadian built robotic arm. He deftly captured the Dragon at 6:52 a.m. EDT while working at the controls of the robotics workstation in the Cupola module and as the station soared some 260 miles above the Pacific Ocean.

NASA TV live coverage of the rendezvous and grappling process began at 5:00 a.m. EDT with berthing coverage concluding about 9:30 a.m. – http://www.nasa.gov/ntv

NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman assisted Gerst in operating the Canadarm2 from inside the domed, seven windowed Cupola.

Approximately two hours later at 9 a.m. EST, the private SpaceX Dragon was berthed at the Earth-facing port on the stations Harmony module.

See the Dragon’s location on ISS graphic below.

Current ISS configuration on Sept. 23, 2014 following berthing of SpaceX Dragon CRS-4.  Credit: NASA TV
Current ISS configuration on Sept. 23, 2014 following berthing of SpaceX Dragon CRS-4. Credit: NASA TV

The SpaceX Dragon CRS-4 cargo mission thundered to space on the company’s Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex-40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida at 1:52 a.m. EDT Sunday, Sept. 21, just hours after a deluge of widespread rain showers inundated central Florida. Story here.

CRS-4 marks the company’s fourth 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.

Eight more Dragon cargo missions to the ISS are slated through 2016.

The Dragon spacecraft is loaded with more than 5,000 pounds of science experiments, 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.

Alexander Gerst and Reid Wiseman watch the approach of the SpaceX Dragon from the Cupola. Credit: NASA TV
Alexander Gerst and Reid Wiseman watch the approach of the SpaceX Dragon from the Cupola.
Credit: NASA TV

This mission opens a new era in Earth science for the ISS. Tucked inside the Dragon’s unpressurized trunk section at the rear is the ISS-Rapid Scatterometer.

RapidScat is NASA’s first research payload aimed at conducting Earth science from the station’s exterior. The station’s robot arm will pluck RapidScat out of the trunk and attach it to an Earth-facing point on the exterior trusswork of ESA’s Columbus science module.

The remote sensing instrument will use radar pulses to observe the speed and direction of winds over the ocean for the improvement of weather forecasting.

Dragon also carries the first 3-D printer to space for the first such space based studies ever attempted by the astronaut crews. The printer will remain at the station for at least the next two years.

Also aboard are 20 mice housed in a special rodent habitat, as well as fruit flies.

Dragon will remain docked to the ISS for about a month. Then it will return to Earth via a parachute assisted Pacific Ocean landing off the coast of Baja California. On the return trip, the capsule will be packed with nearly 3,300 pounds (1,486 kg) of cargo, science samples, and computer and vehicle hardware for engineering checks.

The next SpaceX unmanned resupply mission is set to launch in early December on the CRS-5 flight.

The SpaceX Dragon private space freighter approaches the International Space Station. Credit: NASA TV
The SpaceX Dragon private space freighter approaches the International Space Station.
Credit: NASA TV

Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Earth and Planetary science and human spaceflight news.

Ken Kremer

SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying a Dragon cargo capsule packed with science experiments and station supplies blasts off from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, at 1:52 a.m. EDT on Sept. 21, 2014 bound for the ISS.  Credit: Jeff Seibert/Wired4Space
SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying a Dragon cargo capsule packed with science experiments and station supplies blasts off from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, at 1:52 a.m. EDT on Sept. 21, 2014 bound for the ISS. Credit: Jeff Seibert/Wired4Space
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying a Dragon cargo capsule packed with science experiments and station supplies blasts off from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, at 1:52 a.m. EDT on Sept. 21, 2014 bound for the ISS.  Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying a Dragon cargo capsule packed with science experiments and station supplies blasts off from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, at 1:52 a.m. EDT on Sept. 21, 2014 bound for the ISS. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com