Image Credit & Copyright: SpaceX.
LAUNCH ALERT: Friday, April 8, 2016 at 16:43 EDT (20:43 UTC), a SpaceX Falcon 9 Full Thrust (FT) rocket will be launching from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS), Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) Florida as part of CRS-8 (SpaceX-8 or SpX-8) to resupply the International Space Station.
This, the 10th dragon capsule will be grappled and berthed to the Harmony module (Node-2) nadir (Earth facing) on Sunday, April 10 where it will deliver more than 7,000 lbs. of supplies to the ISS. It is then scheduled to be released after roughly four weeks (May 11) when it will return 1,400 lbs. of cargo back to Earth where is will make splashdown off the coast of Baja California.
This will be Space-X’s 23rd Falcon 9 flight (F9-23), 3rd flight for the FT Falcon, 8th of 12 contracted ISS resupply missions, 10th Dragon capsule (Dragon C-10) and 9th operational Dragon capsule.
BIGELOW EXPANDABLE ACTIVITY MODULE (BEAM): Along for the ride to Station will be Bigelow Aerospace’s BEAM module. This experimental inflatable module will be attached to tranquility’s (Node-3) aft port where it will remain for about two years, testing aspects like leak and radiation rates to determine if the module and future larger ones like it will be suitable for human rating. If successful, future iterations, to include Bigelow’s BA-330 will be used for commercial space stations, Moon bases and who knows, maybe even Mars. Don’t count this guy and his team out; he’s already got two space stations (Genesis 1 & 2) on orbit as we speak where they’ve been since 2006 & 2007.
INTERNATIONAL DOCKING ADAPTERS (IDA’s): Also onboard CRS-8 will be the Boeing/RSC Energia, International Docking Adapter 2 (IDA-2) which will be converting the Androgynous Peripheral Assembly System 95 (APAS-95) to the new IDA system in preparation for Commercial Crew flights set to begin in the next couple years.
In all, two IDA’s will be attached to the Harmony Module (Node-2). They will be attached to Harmony’s two open Pressurized Mating Adapters (PMA’s) which are PMA-2 (forward) and PMA-3 (zenith). The loss of SpaceX CRS-7 on June 28, 2015 saw the destruction of IDA-1 which was slated to be attached to PMA-2 which means IDA-2 will be attached to PMA-2 and in the near future IDA-3 will be secured to PMA-3.
HISTORY IN THE MAKING?! Well SpaceX has already achieved the milestone of Return To Landing Site (RTLS) where the first stage of their Falcon 9 returned to and landed back at Cape Canaveral’s Landing Zone 1 (LZ-1) but success landing on the Autonomous Spaceport Drone Ship (ASDS) has thus far eluded them. This week’s launch will provide yet another opportunity for success.
Autonomous Spaceport Drone Ship (ASDS): Were built at the Conrad Shipyard in Morgan City, Louisiana, the same place that NASA’s Pegasus barge is being refitted to support the SLS program. Pegasus carried lots of equipment throughout the years but most famously the space shuttle external fuel tanks from NASA’s Michaud Plant in Louisiana to KSC.
SpaceX’s barges are 300 by 100 ft. with wings that extend that width to 170 ft. It has also been fitted with thrusters repurposed from deep sea oil rigs that are able to hold balance and position to within 3 meters even in storm conditions. ASDS’s are painted black with the SpaceX “X” logo, a yellow inner ring and outer white ring acting as a bull eye. The East Coast ASDS is “Of Course I Still Love You (OCISLY)” and the West Coast’s ship is “Just Read The Instructions (JRTI).”
In total there have been three ASDS’s. The first of which was Marmac 300, a deck barge named “Just Read The Instructions (JRTI).” That ASDS was used for two east coast landing attempts (CRS 5 & 6), deconstructed and retired. East Coast duties were then transferred to Marmac 304 named “Of Course I Still Love You (OCISLY).” A third ASDS, Marmac 303 was constructed and stationed on the West Coast where it fields launches from Vandenberg AFB, CA. Its name, “Just Read The Instructions (JRTI).”
These fun yet odd names come from Scottish Sci-fi legend Iain Banks’s “Culture” series of 10 novels. They are spacecraft known as General Contact Units (GCU’s) from the novel “Player of Games.” Other spacecraft in the series (which get to name themselves) are even more entertaining such as “Size Isn’t Everything,” “No More Mr. Nice Guy” and “Death and Gravity.” Here’s a fun Wiki page with more info: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_spacecraft_in_the_Culture_series
NOW FOR THE ROCKET: The greatly improved Falcon 9R FT rocket is a 2-stage partially reusable rocket with future ambitions of becoming fully reusable. The new version is 3.7 m (12 ft.) in diameter and 70 m (229.6 ft.) tall which is about 1.6 m (5.6 ft.) taller than the Falcon 9 v1.1 or “Block 2” in order to house a higher volume fuel tank. It is also fitted with upgraded Merlin family main engines. They have replaced the 9 Merlin-1D (and before them were the 1C engines), with the more powerful Merlin-1D+ engines that will provide a thrust of nearly 694,000kg (1.53 million lb.) at sea level. Each Merlin-1D+ provides 180,000 lb. (81,600 kg) of thrust at sea level, which equates to roughly a 20% increase in overall performance. If you add that with the new process of densifying the fuel and improving the overall airframe, the total gain in performance is about 33%.
DRAGON SPACECRAFT (when in use) = The Dragon spacecraft is about 23.6 ft. (7.2 m) tall with trunk attached and 12 ft. (3.7 m) wide. It’s comprised of two main sections; the pressurized cargo area which can carry 388 cubic ft. of cargo as well as the unpressurized cargo area. The trunk (unpressurized area) carries 494 cubic ft. of cargo as well as the solar arrays. OR: MAIN COMPOSITE PAYLOAD FAIRING (when is use) = the composite payload fairing is 13.1 meters (43ft) in length and 5.2 meter (17ft) in diameter.
SECOND STAGE = is powered by a single Merlin-1D+ Vacuum engine with aluminum-lithium alloy tanks fueled by liquid oxygen and rocket grade kerosene (LOX/RP-1). The Merlin 1D+ are basically the same Merlin-1D engines used previously but instead of utilizing them at only 80%, they will now be operating at 100%. This stage can be restarted multiple times to place multiple payloads into desired orbits. For maximum reliability, the second stage has redundant igniter systems and has a burn time of 375 seconds.
INTERSTAGE = a composite structure that connects the first stage to the second stage and holds the release and separation system. Its al all pneumatic stage separation system for low shock, highly reliable separation that can be tested on the ground, unlike pyrotechnic systems used on most launch vehicles.
FIRST CORE/BOOST STAGE = is powered by nine (9) Merlin-1D+ engines in their circular “octaweb” configuration with aluminum-lithium alloy tanks fueled by liquid oxygen and rocket grade kerosene (LOX/RP-1). The Merlin 1D+ engines are basically the same Merlin-1D engines used previously but instead of utilizing them at only 80%, they will now be operating at 100%. The core stage has a burn time of 180 seconds and is gradually throttled. Its 9 Merlin-1D+ engine system can sustain up to two engine shutdowns during flight and still successfully complete its mission.
The first stage is fitted with four independently steerable grid fins that help control pitch, yaw and roll during vertical decent. It’s also fitted with four landing legs that will extend before touchdown.
WATCH THE LAUNCH LIVE: NASA TV coverage for the 16:43 EDT launch begins at 15:30 EDT with grapple and berthing coverage beginning on April 10 at 05:30 EDT with an estimated berthing at 09:30 EDT.
NASA TV: www.nasa.gov/ntv
NASA TV Ustream: http://www.ustream.tv/nasahdtv
SpaceX Webcast: http://www.spacex.com/webcast/
SpaceX Ustream: http://www.ustream.tv/SpaceX
SpaceX YouTube https://www.youtube.com/user/spacexchannel
NASA SpaceX page: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/structure/launch/spacex.html
NASA BEAM page: http://www.nasa.gov/content/bigelow-expandable-activity-module
Bigelow Aerospace BEAM page: http://bigelowaerospace.com/beam/
SpaceX Falcon 9 v1.1 page: http://www.spacex.com/falcon9
Elon Musk Twitter: https://twitter.com/elonmusk
SpaceX Twitter: https://twitter.com/SpaceX
SpaceX Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SpaceX
SpaceX YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/spacexchannel
SpaceX Google Plus: https://plus.google.com/+SpaceX
SpaceX Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/spacexphotos
SpaceX launches (Wiki): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Falcon_9_and_Falcon_Heavy_launches
SpaceX booster landing attempts (Wiki): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Falcon_9_booster_controlled-descent_and_landing_tests
SpaceX Stats: https://spacexstats.com/
GENERAL ISS PAGES:
NASA’s HDEV 24hr LIVE streaming feed from the ISS: https://danspace77.com/2014/05/07/nasahdev-deliver-live-streaming-view-of-earth-from-the-iss/
NASA ISS main mission page: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/main/
ISS Main Twitter: https://twitter.com/Space_Station
ISS Research Twitter: https://twitter.com/ISS_Research
ISS CASIS Twitter: https://twitter.com/ISSCASIS?lang=en
ISS Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/ISS
ISS CASIS Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ISSCASIS
ISS Instagram: http://instagram.com/iss
ISS CASIS Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/iss_casis/
NASA ISS multimedia pages: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/multimedia/index.html
NASA ISS Photos (All the photos you will ever need from the ISS): http://spaceflight.nasa.gov/gallery/images/station/index.html
NASA “2 Explore” Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/nasa2explore/
NASA “HQ Photostream” Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/nasahqphoto/
NASA “Goddard” Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/gsfc/
NASA Spaceflight TMA-15M: http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=31414.0
Roscosmos homepage: http://www.federalspace.ru/
Great ISS schedule page: http://spaceflight101.com/iss/iss-calendar/
All ISS Expeditions: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_International_Space_Station_expeditions