SpaceX sends supplies to space station in 54th launch this year

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the Dragon space station supply ship launched from Kennedy Space Center on Saturday, beginning a 17-hour rendezvous. If all goes well, Dragon, loaded with 7,700 pounds of supplies and equipment, will dock at the lab complex at 7:30 a.m. Sunday.

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SpaceX launched its 26th space station re-supply mission on Saturday, sending 7,700 pounds of equipment and supplies aboard a Dragon cargo ship, including Thanksgiving Day treats for the lab’s crew, research gear and supplies to boost the station’s power. Two new roll-out solar arrays are included.

Delayed by stormy weather earlier this week, the Falcon 9 rocket’s first-stage engine roared to life at 2:20 p.m. EST and the slender rocket lifted off from Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center. About 12 minutes later, the cargo dragon was released to fly on its own.

If all goes well, the spacecraft will follow the station early Sunday, approaching from behind and below. After looping in front of the lab and then over it, the capsule will proceed to an autonomous docking at the forward Harmony module’s space-facing port.

“Of critical importance to us (are) the two new solar arrays that we’re doing spacewalks … to be installed and deployed on the International Space Station,” said Joel Montalbano, space station program manager at Johnson Space Center. Houston.

“And in addition to the two solar arrays, we have some life support equipment being delivered, some GPS hardware, some exercise hardware and some medical equipment. … Overall, we’re looking forward to an exciting mission.”

Also on board: late-Thanksgiving treats for the station’s seven-member crew, including spiced green beans, cranapple desserts and pumpkin pie.

“Plus, our standard food menu allows them to have everything we’re having on Thanksgiving, you know, mashed potatoes, candied yams, mac and cheese for those who want mac and cheese.” . That’s why we’re going to get them. The boys ate great.”

Cargo Dragon is also loaded with research materials, including an experiment to grow dwarf tomatoes in space, an experimental in-flight medical diagnosis kit, an experiment to test new techniques for building large structures in microgravity, and another that Will test new methods of production. Major Nutrients in Space

A camera on the Falcon 9’s second stage captures a view of the Dragon cargo ship floating by after reaching orbit. A set of rolled-up solar array blankets is visible in the unpressurized trunk section of the spacecraft.

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The ISS Roll-Out Solar Arrays, or IROSA, are the third and fourth of six being installed on the space station in a $103 million upgrade to increase the power output of the lab’s eight older, original-equipment blankets.

The space station was built with four giant rotating solar fins, two on the right side of the laboratory and two on the left. Each of those four wings is made up of two solar panels that extend in opposite directions from a central hub.

The first pair of Original Equipment blankets has been around for over 20 years. Subsequent wings were added in 2006, 2007 and 2009. All of these have suffered degradation over the years in the space environment and do not generate as much power as they did when new.

The IROSA blankets, about half the size of the original arrays, are more efficient and will eventually generate an additional 120 kW of power. They were designed to be mounted on brackets at the base of an existing wing, extending outward at a 10-degree angle to reduce the shadow cast on the array below.

NASA is in the process of upgrading the International Space Station’s solar power system. The first two of the six roll-out solar array blankets were installed last year, attached to the outboard original-equipment arrays at far right. The two roll-out arrays launched aboard Cargo Dragon on Saturday will be connected to the inboard arrays on the right and left sides of the station.


The first two IROSA blankets were installed on the left side outboard arrays during the spacewalk in 2021 – the oldest set on the station. Feather during the spacewalk in December.

“The first two arrays have performed excellently,” Matt Mickle, senior manager of development projects at Boeing, said in a NASA release. “Solar cells are much more powerful than previous generations.”

Once all six roll-out arrays are installed, total power output will increase by 20 to 30 percent, matching the output of the original arrays when they were new.

The last two of the six IROSAs currently contracted will be launched next year. It is not yet known whether NASA will purchase the two final IROSAs to augment all eight of the station’s original blankets.

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