SpaceX set to fly first cargo from historic Apollo launch pad

Washington, Feb 18 (IANS) SpaceX is set to fly its first resupply mission to the space station from the historic launch pad which was built for the Apollo/Saturn V missions that carried astronauts to the moon.

The liftoff is scheduled for 10.01 a.m. EST (8.31 p.m. on Saturday India time) from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

“Looks like we are go for launch,” SpaceX CEO Elon Musk tweeted on Saturday.

A SpaceX Dragon spacecraft will carry about 2,500 kgs of experiments and supplies as part of the mission. The gear is packed into a SpaceX Dragon capsule that will fly into orbit aboard the company’s Falcon 9 rocket.

Launch Complex 39A – originally built for the Apollo/Saturn V missions — was modified for space shuttle launches. SpaceX modified it again for rockets such as the Falcon 9.

It will take two days for the Dragon to catch up to the space station and move within reach of the station’s 57-foot-long robotic arm, NASA said in a statement.

Astronauts Shane Kimbrough of NASA and Thomas Pesquet of the European Space Agency will use the arm to capture Dragon and maneuver it to its berthing port on the station.

“The forecast issued today from the 45th Weather Squadron calls for a 60 percent chance of acceptable conditions Saturday morning for the launch of the CRS-10 mission,” the US space agency said in a statement on Thursday.

If the launch does not occur Saturday, the next launch opportunity is on Sunday, NASA said.

The SpaceX CRS-10 mission will deliver advanced space research to improve disease-fighting drugs, observe Earth’s climate and automate spacecraft navigation, the US space agency added.

The SpaceX mission is expected to last about a month with the Dragon capsule being detached from the station by the robotic arm.

The Dragon will fly the return flight path on its own as SpaceX and NASA mission controllers watch over its progress.

Flying into the atmosphere protected by a heat shield, the Dragon will splashdown in the Pacific Ocean, where it will be recovered and its payloads dispatched to researchers.

–IANS

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