SpaceX Dragon to Fly to Space Station for Third Time

Dragon spacecraft (Credit: NASA)

Update: Launch scrubbed for weather on Wednesday. SpaceX will try again on Thursday, July 25 at 6:01 p.m. EDT (22:01 UTC).

CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, Fla. (SpaceX PR) — SpaceX is targeting Wednesday, July 24 for launch of its eighteenth Commercial Resupply Services mission (CRS-18) at 6:24 p.m. EDT, or 22:24 UTC, fromSpace Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.

Dragon will separate from Falcon 9’s second stage about nine minutes after liftoff and attach to the space station on Friday, July 26. A backup launch opportunity is available on Thursday, July 25 at 6:01 p.m. EDT, or 22:01 UTC.

The Dragon spacecraft that will support the CRS-18 mission previously supported the CRS-6 mission in April 2015 and the CRS-13 mission in December 2017. Following stage separation, SpaceX will attempt to recover Falcon 9’s first stage on Landing Zone 1 (LZ-1) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.

Dragon will be filled with approximately 5,000 pounds of supplies and payloads, including critical materials to directly support more than 250 science and research investigations that will occur onboard the orbiting laboratory. CRS-18 is the eighteenth of up to 20 missions to the International Space Station that SpaceX will fly for NASA under the first CRS contract.

In January 2016, NASA announced that SpaceX’s Falcon 9 launch vehicle and Dragon spacecraft were selected to resupply the space station through 2024 as part of a second Commercial Resupply Services contract award.

Under the CRS contracts, SpaceX has restored the United States’ capability to deliver and return significant amounts of cargo, including live plants and animals, to and from the orbiting laboratory.

Crew Dragon, a variant of the Dragon spacecraft designed to transport U.S-based crew to and from the space station,completed its first demonstration mission in March 2019.

International Space Station crew members will use the station’s 57.7-foot (17.6-meter) robotic arm to capture Dragon and attach it to the orbiting laboratory on Friday, July 26.

Dragon will return to Earth with more than 3,300 pounds of cargo after an approximately four-week stay at the International Space Station. About five hours after Dragon leaves the space station, it will conduct its deorbit burn, which lasts up to 10 minutes. It takes about 30 minutes for Dragon to reenter the Earth’s atmosphere and splash down in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Baja California.

Mission Timeline
(all times approximate)

Countdown

-00:38:00 SpaceX Launch Director verifies go for propellant load
-00:35:00 RP-1 (rocket grade kerosene) loading begins
-00:35:00 1st stage LOX(liquid oxygen) loading begins
-00:16:00 2nd stage LOX loading begins
-00:07:58 Dragon transitions to internal power
-00:07:00 Falcon 9 begins pre-launch engine chill
-00:01:00 Command flight computer to begin final pre-launch checks
-00:01:00 Propellant tanks pressurize for flight
-00:00:45 SpaceX Launch Director verifies go for launch
-00:00:03 Engine controller commands engine ignition sequence to start
-00:00:00 Falcon 9 liftoff

Launch, Landing and Dragon Deployment

00:01:12 Max Q (moment of peak mechanical stress on the rocket)
00:02:18 1st stage main engine cutoff (MECO)
00:02:21 1st and 2nd stages separate
00:02:29 2nd stage engine starts
00:02:34 1st stage boostback burn begins
00:06:37 1ststage entry burn begins
00:08:23 1st stage landing
00:08:38 2nd stage engine cutoff (SECO)
00:09:38 Dragon separates from 2nd stage
00:12:06 Dragon’s solar arrays deploy
02:19:00 Dragon’s Guidance, Navigation and Control bay door opens