SpaceX has finally launched its 18th commercial cargo mission (Dragon Mission) to the International Space Station on Friday early morning. Yes, you read it right. After a delay of one day caused due to bad weather, SpaceX's two-stage Falcon 9 rocket lifted off from Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
It is to be noted that the Falcon 9 rocket is carrying a new docking adapter that will enable future commercial crew vehicles to dock to the station – as SpaceX also prepares to launch a prototype of its Mars-bound spacecraft. The cargo delivery includes supplies for the six astronauts stationed on the ISS as well as scientific instruments and experiments or “investigations”.
Interestingly, the launch marks the 18th mission for SpaceX under its commercial cargo resupply services contract with NASA. According to a report of space.com, of the missions flown to date, this is the seventh overall to feature a preflown Dragon and marks the first time the same Dragon spacecraft has flown to the station three times — CRS-6 in April 2015, the CRS-13 mission in December 2017 and now CRS-18.
Also, with an aim to mark this achievement, Dragon is sporting two ISS decals, along with another to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing.
"Historically today, 50 years ago, we were able to complete Kennedy's challenge to get men to the moon," Bill Specht, NASA's deputy manager for ISS Transport Integration, said during a prelaunch news conference yesterday.
He explained that NASA and SpaceX want to honour not only the Apollo 11 astronauts but also Chris Kraft, who passed away on Monday (July 22) at the age of 95. "He was the founder for mission control and laid the groundwork for how we operate in space today," Specht said of Kraft, who was NASA's first flight director.