This past weekend saw a dragon lift off to resupply the ISS, and a craft enter the orbit of Mars….
In a beautiful nighttime launch, with 9 Merlin 1D rocket engines roaring to life on the Falcon launch vehicle, SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft lifts off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida at 1:52am EDT Sunday, Sept 21. Image Credit: NASA/Sandy Joseph and Kevin O’Connell
The resupply mission, SpaceX’s 4th cargo delivery flight to the International Space Station, is carrying about 5,000 pounds of NASA investigations and cargo, including the first-ever 3-D printer in space, a troop of 20 mice which will be used for microgravity research into bone density, and NASA’s ISS-Rapid Scatterometer, or ISS-RapidScat, which will monitor ocean winds from the vantage point of the orbiting laboratory, and which made the trip bolted inside the unpressurized trunk of the Dragon.
Dragon is scheduled to be grappled at 7:04 am on Tuesday, Sept. 23, by Expedition 41 Flight Engineer Alexander Gerst of the European Space Agency, using the space station’s robotic arm to take hold of the spacecraft. Dragon is scheduled to depart the space station in mid-October for a splashdown in the Pacific Ocean bringing back with it almost 3,200 pounds of science, hardware and crew supplies.
Meanwhile, at Mars…
At 7:24 pm PDT Sunday, Sept. 21, NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) spacecraft successfully entered Mars’ orbit where it now will prepare to study the Red Planet’s upper atmosphere, the first spacecraft dedicated to doing so. (
Following a 10-month journey, confirmation of successful orbit insertion was received from MAVEN data observed at the Lockheed Martin operations center in Littleton, Colorado, as well as from tracking data monitored at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory navigation facility in Pasadena, California. MAVEN’s telemetry and tracking data were received by NASA’s Deep Space Network antenna station in Canberra, Australia.
MAVEN will now begin a six week commissioning phase which includes maneuvering into its final science orbit and testing the instruments and science-mapping commands. The spacecraft will then begin its one Earth-year primary mission, taking measurements of the composition, structure and escape of gases in Mars’ upper atmosphere and its interaction with the sun and solar wind.