On its third mission—and the second dedicated flight under the $1.6 billion Commercial Resupply Services contract with NASA—SpaceX’s Dragon will make full use of both its pressurized and unpressurized (Trunk) features on CRS-2. Photo Credit: NASA


Next SpaceX Dragon Spacecraft on Track for March 1 Launch

By Ben Evans

The last twelve months have truly been a rollercoaster ride for Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX)—the Hawthorne, Calif., company, led by entrepreneur Elon Musk—whose Falcon 9 rocket and unmanned Dragon cargo craft thundered into the public consciousness in both a positive and negative light. In May 2012, Dragon triumphantly flew a demonstration flight to the International Space Station, becoming the first commercial craft ever to have a spacecraft be berthed there, and in October its maiden Commercial Resupply Services (CRS-1) mission under SpaceX’s $1.6 billion contract with NASA was successfully concluded. That success, however, was tempered by an engine-out anomaly, just 80 seconds after launch, which spelled disaster for a small Orbcomm piggyback satellite. Now, almost five months later, another Falcon 9 and fully-loaded Dragon stand ready at Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida—primed to restore an otherwise-proud reputation.

Liftoff of the CRS-2 mission is currently scheduled for 10:10 a.m. EDT, March 1, beginning an ambitious four-week voyage which will see the first use of Dragon’s unpressurized “Trunk” section to carry equipment and supplies. The whole Dragon measures 19.3 feet long and 12 feet wide. Some 1,490 pounds of cargo will be transported to the ISS, of which a little more than half is dedicated to ongoing scientific research. This includes a pair of General Laboratory Active Cryogenic ISS Experiment Refrigerators (GLACIER)—one powered and the other unpowered—to support multiple biological samples with thermal-control requirements between -160°C and +4°C. A spare electronics unit for one of the ISS’s Minus-Eighty Laboratory Freezers for ISS (MELFI), a Carbon Dioxide Removal Assembly (CDRA) bed, and crew provisions will also be aboard.

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