The US space agency NASA and private aerospace company SpaceX have launched an upgraded cargo Dragon spacecraft. The International Space Station bound uncrewed spacecraft was launched atop a Falcon 9 rocket. Falcon 9 is a SpaceX rocket. It is a partially reusable launch rocket. The rocket lifted off from the Kennedy Space Center on December 6. It is the 21st commercial mission of SpaceX. The California headquartered company is owned by tech mogul Elon Musk. NASA said that the upgraded Dragon spacecraft separated from the rocket successfully. The spacecraft is continuing its journey to the ISS. The spacecraft is carrying critical equipment and material.
NASA said that the supplies will support research and experiments at the orbiting laboratory. It said that the materials will directly assist over 250 investigations. The Dragon aircraft will autonomously dock to the ISS. It will be the first automated docking for cargo designed by SpaceX. Astronauts and engineers currently at the ISS will oversee the docking operations to the Harmony module. The module acts as a passageway. The cargo will deliver over 6,400 pounds of science investigations. SpaceX said that it marks the first launch for the company under the CRS-2 contract of NASA.
The company said that it is the first of a new generation of Dragon cargo spacecraft. The spacecraft will remain attached to the ISS for more than a month. It will return to Earth with a splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean. According to the company, the largest payload on the spacecraft is the Bishop airlock for Nanoracks. The Dragon’s unpressurized trunk is transporting the Bishop Airlock. It is also the first permanent and commercial addition to the ISS. The module is owned by Houston-based Nanoracks. The company said that it took about five years to develop the module. NASA said that it will be used to deploy small satellites and other external payloads. It is about the size of a small closet. It measures 5.8 feet in length and 6.9 feet in diameter.