HAWTHORNE (CNS) – While a retired Space Shuttle is about to crawl across Los Angeles, a rocket made just a few miles away is about to be launched as the first private enterprise booster to resupply the International Space Station under a NASA contract.
SpaceX, owned by Paypal co-founder Elon Musk, has a rocket go for liftoff from Launch Complex 40 at the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, Fla. at 5:34 p.m. California time Sunday. It will loft half a ton of scientific gear and other stuff to the science center in Earth orbit.
Weather conditions in Florida today indicate a 60 percent chance that the spacecraft can be launched. If there is a “no go” Sunday, the back-up launch window is on Monday.
The rocket was built by the Hawthorne-based firm, which has a $1.6 billion NASA contract to launch 12 cargo missions to the ISS. A test launch worked flawlessly earlier this year, and NASA officials are watching SpaceX’s Falcon 9 launcher and Dragon spacecraft closely. A competing firm, Orbital Sciences Corp. of Virginia. has a test launch in the works and is bidding for NASA contracts as well.
NASA and the Air Force are overseeing the takeoff, which is to start with the loading of the fuel — kerosene and liquid oxygen — at about 10 a.m. Pacific Sunday. Mission control for the rocket is at SpaceX headquarters on Rocket Road in Hawthorne.
Dragon is carrying 734 pounds of scientific materials that will be used by the ISS’s 33rd crew of scientists, who were launched into space from the Russian launch center in Asia. Another 1,100 pounds of space station hardware will be carried by Dragon Sunday.
On Wednesday, Dragon will approach the ISS. NASA Cmdr. Sunita Williams and Aki Hoshide of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency will use the Canadian- built grappler arm to move the California-built ship up to the ISS, the first time an American supply vessel other than a Space Shuttle has docked there. Once unloaded, Dragon will be guided to a splashdown off the Southern California coast in late October.