SpaceX Dragon Capsule
September 21, 2012

SpaceX Dragon Capsule To Make Another ISS Trip In October

John Neumann for - Your Universe Online

With one successful launch and docking of a capsule to the orbiting science station under its belt, SpaceX is moving ahead quickly on the next planned mission to use its Dragon capsule to resupply the International Space Station (ISS) with half a ton of supplies, reports Zeenews and NASA.

October 7 is the date penciled in by NASA for the first of twelve contracted US cargo resupply missions to the ISS, writes Shane McGlaun for Slashgear, with a return splashdown scheduled for late October in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Southern California. The contract was awarded under NASA´s Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) contract.

NASA´s ISS program managers have confirmed that SpaceX´s Falcon 9 rocket, and the cargo spacecraft are ready for the mission which will include critical materials to support the 166 investigations planned for the station´s crew.

Some of the experiments being launched to the ISS will support experiments in plant cell biology, human biotechnology and various materials technology demonstrations, among others.

One experiment, called Micro 6, will examine the effects of microgravity on the opportunistic yeast Candida albicans, which is present on all humans.

Another experiment, called Resist Tubule, will evaluate how microgravity affects the growth of cell walls in a plant called Arabidopsis. About 50 percent of the energy expended by terrestrial-bound plants is dedicated to structural support to overcome gravity.

Dragon will be returning with 734 pounds of scientific materials, including the results from human research, biotechnology, materials, and educational experiments to earth in addition to about 504 pounds of space station hardware.

The US fleet of space shuttles carried most of the gear and many of the astronauts to the space station until their retirement last year. Since then, American astronauts have had to rely on Russian capsules for rides. European, Japanese and Russian supply ships have been delivering cargo.

NASA is looking to the private sector to get American astronauts launching again from US soil. It will be at least four to five years before SpaceX or any other private operator is capable of flying astronauts.

While NASA works with US industry partners to develop commercial spaceflight capabilities, the agency also is developing the Orion spacecraft and the Space Launch System (SLS), a crew capsule and heavy-lift rocket to provide an entirely new capability for human exploration.

Designed to be flexible for launching spacecraft for crew and cargo missions, SLS and Orion will expand human presence beyond low Earth orbit and enable new missions of exploration across the solar system.