Liftoff! SpaceX Falcon 9 Rocket With Dragon Spacecraft Blasts Off From Kennedy’s Launch Pad 39A

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SpaceX Falcon 9 Cargo Dragon Liftoff

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket launches from Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A in Florida, on Dec. 21, 2021. This launch marks the company’s 24th commercial resupply services mission for NASA. Credit: NASA

We have liftoff! At 5:07 a.m. EST, the nine Merlin engines of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket roared to life, powering off the launch pad from Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A in Florida. The rocket is carrying the Dragon spacecraft on the company’s 24th commercial resupply services mission for NASA.

Slated to dock with the International Space Station in a little less than 24 hours from now, Dragon will deliver more than 6,500 pounds of science and research experiments, crew supplies, and vehicle hardware to the orbiting laboratory.

Coming up in about a minute, the rocket will pass through Max Q – the moment of peak mechanical stress on the rocket. Then, the Falcon 9’s first and second stage will separate.

SpaceX Falcon 9 Cargo Dragon Before Liftoff

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket with Dragon spacecraft stands ready for launch at Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The company’s 24th Commercial Resupply Services mission for NASA, targeted for liftoff on December 21, 2021 at 5:07 a.m. EST, will deliver new science investigations, supplies, and equipment to the crew on board the International Space Station. Credit: NASA

The destination is the International Space Station, where it will dock for approximately one month. Dragon’s planned arrival is Wednesday, December 22, at about 3 a.m., followed by docking about 90 minutes later. NASA astronauts Raja Chari and Thomas Marshburn will monitor operations while the spacecraft autonomously docks to the orbiting laboratory’s Harmony module.

SpaceX Falcon 9 Cargo Dragon Launch Pad

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket with Dragon spacecraft stands ready for launch at Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Credit: NASA

Update:

Main Engine Cuts Off, Falcon 9 First Stage Separates

The Falcon 9 rocket’s nine Merlin engines have finished their burn, and the first stage has separated from the rocket. As the second stage continues carrying Dragon on its flight, the rocket’s first stage will attempt a targeted landing on the drone ship “Just Read the Instructions.” That’s coming up in just about six minutes.

Update:

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 Rocket’s First Stage Lands

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket’s first stage lands on the company’s “Just Read the Instructions” droneship in the Atlantic Ocean. Credit: NASA

Successful Landing for Falcon 9 First Stage

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket’s first stage completed a perfect landing, touching down on the company’s “Just Read the Instructions” droneship in the Atlantic Ocean. This marks the 100th successful landing and recovery for the company of its first-stage booster after launch.

Coming up next, Dragon will separate from the rocket’s second stage to continue its journey to the International Space Station.

Update:

Dragon Separates From Falcon 9 Rocket

The uncrewed Dragon spacecraft separates from the second stage of the Falcon 9 rocket after launch of the company’s 24th commercial resupply services mission from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, on December 21, 2021. Credit: NASA

Dragon Separates from Falcon 9 Rocket

The uncrewed Dragon spacecraft has separated from the second stage of the Falcon 9 rocket, continuing on its journey to the International Space Station. The company’s 24th cargo resupply mission will deliver more than 6,500 pounds of science experiments and research, crew supplies, and hardware to the orbiting laboratory.

Dragon is scheduled to arrive at the space station on Wednesday, Dec. 22, at about 3 a.m., followed by docking about 90 minutes later. Expedition 66 Flight Engineers Raja Chari and Thomas Marshburn will monitor operations while the spacecraft autonomously docks to the orbiting laboratory’s Harmony module.

Dragon is expected to spend about a month attached to the space station before autonomously undocking and returning to Earth, splashing down in the Atlantic Ocean with research and return cargo.

Update:

Nosecone Open, Dragon Continues Journey to Space Station

Dragon’s nosecone is open, and the spacecraft is safely in orbit following a launch on the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket at 5:07 a.m. EST from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, carrying more than 6,500 pounds of research, crew supplies and hardware to the International Space Station.

Dragon is scheduled to arrive at the orbital outpost Wednesday, Dec. 22, at about 3 a.m. EST. Docking coverage will begin at 3 a.m. on NASA Television, the agency’s website, and the NASA app.

When it arrives to the space station, Dragon will dock autonomously to the forward-facing port of the station’s Harmony module, with Expedition 66 Flight Engineers Raja Chari and Thomas Marshburn of NASA monitoring operations.

SpaceX’s 24th cargo mission to the space station under NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services contract will support dozens of new and existing investigations, and carry crucial supplies and hardware to the orbital outpost to support the Expedition 66 crew.

In November, the station surpassed its 21-year milestone of continuous human presence, providing opportunities for unique research and technological demonstrations that help improve life on Earth and also prepare for the agency’s long-duration missions to the Moon and Mars. To date, the orbiting laboratory has hosted nearly 3,000 research investigations from researchers in 108 countries and areas.

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