SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launches from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida
April 18, 2014

Liftoff: SpaceX Commercial Resupply Vehicle En Route To Space Station

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

[ Watch the Video: Liftoff Of SpaceX-3 ]

After multiple delays, the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon cargo vehicle successfully lifted off on Friday afternoon, beginning the company’s third commercial resupply mission to the International Space Station.

Friday’s launch commenced at 3:25 p.m. EDT from Launch Complex 40 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, NASA officials confirmed in a statement. It is expected to rendezvous with the space station during the morning hours on Sunday, April 20, with NASA TV coverage scheduled to begin at 5:45 a.m.

The Dragon cargo craft is transporting nearly 5,000 pounds of supplies and experiment hardware for the orbiting laboratory’s Expedition 39 crew. It was initially scheduled to liftoff on Monday, but that launch had to be scrubbed due to a helium leak on the Falcon 9’s first-stage rocket.

Once it arrives at the facility on Sunday, Commander Koichi Wakata and Flight Engineer Rick Mastracchio will capture the cargo vessel using the Canadarm2 instrument at 7:14 a.m. This will prepare it for its berthing to the Earth-facing port of the Harmony module, according to the U.S. space agency.

The U.S. Air Force 45th Weather Squadron forecast had predicted only a 40 percent chance of favorable weather for Friday’s launch, due to the risk of showers and thunderstorms that could have violated the Thick Cloud, Lightning and Flight Through Precipitation rules. A back-up launch of Saturday, April 19 at 3:02 p.m. had been scheduled.

With the successful launch, an extravehicular activity (EVA) event to replace a failed multiplexer-demultiplexer impacting some robotic systems on the ISS should take place on Wednesday, April 23 as planned.

Expedition 39 crew members Rick Mastracchio and Steve Swanson will be participating in that spacewalk, which is scheduled to begin at 9:20 a.m. Wednesday and last 2.5 hours. During the EVA, the failed unit will be replaced with one that is currently housed within the station.

It will be the ninth career spacewalk for Mastracchio, who will be designated EV1 and will be wearing the spacesuit with red stripes, and the fifth for Swanson. NASA officials had previously confirmed that the primary computer systems are unaffected and that the astronauts on board the ISS are not in any danger.

Former ISS astronaut Christopher Cassidy, who is assisting with the EVA from Houston, told the Associated Press that the spacewalk involved just the manual turning of three bolts on the computer box and should be “pretty straightforward” and should “go quickly,” but added “in space ... you never know what's going to be thrown at you.”