Saturday, April 19, 2014

SpaceX Makes Waves

Click the arrow to watch the SpaceX Falcon 9 launch. Video source: NASA YouTube channel.

Defying the weather gods, SpaceX launched its legged Falcon 9 yesterday, sending the cargo version of Dragon to the International Space Station for a planned Easter Sunday arrival.

For NASA and other payload customers, it was a relief to see their cargo on its way to ISS after multiple delays.

For NewSpace fans, it was the first launch of a Falcon 9 with the landing legs attached. After the first stage separated, SpaceX hoped to demonstrate it could steer the stage back to a landing target. For this mission, the target was a point in the Atlantic Ocean, but in the future it will be a landing pad, perhaps the Space Florida-managed Launch Complex 36 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

SpaceX founder Elon Musk tweeted the mission's progress into the evening. As reported by Alan Boyle of NBC News, Musk indicated that heavy seas prevented recovery ships from observing the splashdown, although telemetry indicated the vehicle performed as hoped. A final conclusion awaits recovery of the stage and further data analysis.

Among the many microgravity experiments aboard is a thyroid cancer cell study to determine why certain cancer cells self-destruct in microgravity.

The cancer cell study is one of many packaged by Nanoracks, in partnership with the Center for Advancement of Science in Space. CASIS has several research payloads aboard, including “the protein responsible for Huntington’s disease; proteins involved in other neurodegenerative conditions, Cystic Fibrosis, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and other ailments; and membrane proteins involved in drug effectiveness.”

Click the arrow to watch the post-launch press conference. Video source: NASA YouTube channel.

Click the arrow to watch a CASIS video on its research payloads. Video source: ISSCASIS YouTube channel.

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