SpaceX ran through countdown and fueling procedures with a Falcon 9 rocket at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Sunday, culminating in ignition of the booster’s nine first stage Merlin engines in a customary check of the launcher’s readiness before liftoff Thursday with a Dragon supply ship for the International Space Station.
SpaceX’s Dragon cargo craft ended a four-week mission Sunday with a parachute-assisted splashdown in the Pacific Ocean, returning from the International Space Station with more than 3,600 pounds of cargo, blood and urine samples, and specimens from a rodent research experiment aimed at helping patients with catastrophic bone injuries and osteoporosis.
After 24 days at the International Space Station, SpaceX’s Dragon supply ship came back to Earth on Sunday with more than 5,400 pounds of cargo, human and animal research specimens, and other gear tagged for the trip home. Release from the station’s robotic arm occurred at 5:11 a.m. EDT (0911 GMT), and splashdown in the Pacific Ocean was a few minutes before 11 a.m. EDT (1500 GMT).
Running a day late after aborting a rendezvous to resolve a navigation glitch, SpaceX’s Dragon cargo craft made a smooth final approach to the International Space Station on Thursday, floating in range of the research lab’s robot arm for capture to deliver 2.7 tons of supplies and research experiments.
Engineers clad in clean suits finished stowing last-minute cargo into SpaceX’s Dragon supply ship Friday, including 40 mice and bacterial research specimens, a day before it is scheduled to blast off to the International Space Station in the first flight from the Kennedy Space Center’s historic Apollo-era launch pad 39A since 2011.