SpaceX has launched three tons of cargo destined for the International Space Station (ISS). The launch is the company’s 19th ISS resupply mission and the third aboard this particular Dragon spacecraft.
A Falcon 9 carrying the CRS-19 Dragon spacecraft loaded with science and supplies for the station’s crew was launched from Cape Canaveral in Florida at 17:29 UTC. Approximately 10 minutes after liftoff, the spacecraft was successfully deployed from the rocket’s upper stage on its way to the orbiting outpost.
Following a three-day chase, the spacecraft will rendezvous with the ISS on Sunday, December 8. It will then be captured by the Canadarm robotic arm and installed aboard the orbiting outpost. The spacecraft will remain installed aboard the station for approximately four weeks after which it will return to Earth splashing down in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of California.
The Dragon spacecraft utilized for the CRS-19 mission had been flown in support of two previous ISS resupply missions. The first in 2014 was the company’s fourth resupply mission and the first to carry a living payload, 20 mice which were to be used to study the physiological effects of long-duration spaceflight. The second in 2017 was the company’s eleventh resupply mission and the first to be launched aboard a recovered Dragon spacecraft.
Although a flight-proven Falcon 9 first stage (B1056) had initially been earmarked to launch the CRS-19 mission, a last-minute flight profile amendment saw a new first stage utilized instead.
The new flight profile resulted in the need for a droneship landing, where traditionally it would have returned to Cape Canaveral and touched down meters from the launch pad. The booster successfully completed the droneship landing approximately 8 minutes after liftoff touching down on Of Course I Still Love You.