SpaceX successfully launches a reused Dragon spacecraft for ISS resupply mission

SpaceX's CRS-13 Mission

SpaceX successfully launched its twelfth Commercial Resupply Services mission (CRS-12) from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Florida on August 14, 2017. Dragon spacecraft used in the mission successfully delivered a cargo of 4800 pounds (approx. 2177 kg) including research equipment and other supplies.

Why is it important?

This is the first time a spacecraft has been reused, the reused spacecraft being the SpaceX’s Dragon. This is in line with the vision of SpaceX’s CEO, Elon Musk. Musk from the starting of the company has been a proponent of reuse in space missions. SpaceX earlier became the first company/organization to successfully reuse a spent rocket stage. Now, with this event, SpaceX became the first company to reuse a spacecraft too.

SpaceX has reduced the cost of space launches significantly, just by reusing the first stage of its Falcon 9 rocket engine. In fact, most of the companies which provide launch services are already having a hard time. Now that SpaceX reused a spacecraft, the cost of access to space will further decrease. This is not going to affect only cargo and satellite missions, but also human missions, as SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft can be reconfigured for human use too. That’s not all, the cargo SpaceX delivered is also very important.

Some important Cargo Delivered in this mission

  • Made in Space Optic Fiber filament experiment: This experiment is from the company Made in Space. It will investigate benefits of manufacturing of fiber optic cable made of ZBLAN in microgravity. ZBLAN is a heavy metal fluoride glass commonly used to make fiber optic glass, but not fiber optic cable (currently not possible). Made in Space believes that manufacturing fiber optic cable from ZBLAN maybe possible in space, which would be of better quality than the conventional ones manufactured on earth. If successful, it would give momentum to manufacturing in outer space.
  • Sensors for measuring the amount of energy Earth receives from Sun: NASA’s Total and Spectral Solar Irradiance Sensor, or TSIS-1, will measure the Sun’s energy input to Earth. Its measurements will be more accurate than previous sensors, enabling scientists to study Earth’s primary source of energy, the Sun.
  • Space Debris Sensor (SDS): It will measure the orbital debris environment around the space station for two to three years. Once mounted on the exterior of the station, this one-square-meter sensor will provide near-real-time debris impact detection and recording. Research from this investigation could help lower the risks posed by orbital debris to human life and critical hardware.
  • Beer manufacturing in space experiment: The cargo onboard the Dragon spacecraft included barley seeds from Budweiser. The seeds will be used in an experiment demonstrating how they grow and react in space. Budweiser is hopeful that it would be the first company to brew beer on Mars.

Dragon is scheduled to depart the station in January 2018 and return to Earth with more than 3,600 pounds of research, hardware and crew supplies.

Below is SpaceX Webcast of the CSR-12 mission.

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