During partly cloudy skies NASA and SpaceX launched the CRS-22 mission with Cargo Dragon C209-1 a new upgraded version on top of a brand new first stage rocket booster B-1067.1 carrying a vital 7,300 pounds of supplies, equipment and state of the art science investigations to the International Space Station at 1:29 PM EDT or 17:29 UTC from historic launch complex 39A at Cape Kennedy Florida on June 3rd 2021.
Autonomous docking will occur on Friday June 4th to the Harmony Zenith docking port and will be broadcast by NASA TV. The first stage booster made a successful landing on OCISLY down range in the Atlantic ocean.
This was the 120th Falcon 9 launch. The 129th SpaceX mission. 86th booster landing. 17th launch for SpaceX in 2021. The 18th total launch SpaceX (17) and ULA (1) from Cape Canaveral. SpaceX 36th launch from LC-39A. World wide all launch providers this is the 50th orbital launch attempt for 2021.
The science on board CRS-22 is truly amazing. In a one on one interview with Dr. Simon Gilroy professor at University of Wisconsin Madison back in 2017 Target (the retail chain) funded a grant near $200.000.00 to research the sustainability and viability of growing cotton plants that are more drought resistant and need less pesticides.
Cotton is notorious for using large amounts of water in its growth and production fields on Earth. Using under graduates and graduate students from the university and Momentum helped in 3D printing the sterile enclosures for the cotton seeds to germinate and grow they had five sets of fifth-teen chambers to send to the ISS.
The extra four sets are needed in case of scrubs and delays in the missile launching. One sample that was shown to us had 5 days of super charged growth with a stalk over six inches tall and roots of about the same length.
Besides the normal cotton seeds there are two different varieties or strains of engineered seeds to compare to the base line seed. Dr. Gilroy’s team has 10 people from this four year process from conceptualize the idea, write the protocols, grow the genetically engineered seeds, test the sterile environment and containers to ship and store on board the SpaceX Cargo Dragon.
This test campaign is using a totally sterile environment and seed which will be opened by the astronauts six days after arrival to the ISS and once opened will be immediately freeze dried to stop the experiment and preserve the results until it is returned by Dragon in July when it undocks from the ISS for splashdown.
A recently graduated fourth grader Raymond Pickney from Loveland Colorado asked Dr. Gilroy if beneficial or harmful bugs are on board the ISS and he was excited to answer this question. The answer is yes. When dealing with humans and plants their normal environment is not sterile so this is the major question in step two of this investigation two years from now they will send back to the ISS a new cotton plant which will have microbes in the experiment to compare to the results of the first phase launched today.
Other important science investigations include kidney disease treatments, portable ultrasound device, Thardigrades or Water Bears a very resilient creature and what gene helps them to survive such extreme conditions they experience on Earth, also tiny newly hatched Bob Tail Squid to learn how microbes in animals react to spaceflight UMAMI Understanding of Microgravity on Animal-Microbe Interactions.
Major hardware devices are IROSA two new roll out solar arrays previous tested on the ISS in the trunck of Dragon, catalytic reactor for water production spare unit, CEBAA Commercial Crew Vehicle Emergency Breathing Air Assembly which can support up to five astronauts for up to one hour during an ISS emergency ammonia leak, portable water dispense filters, COTS commercial off the shelf air tanks, Iceberg critical cold storage capability to support expanded payload operations.
It was a beautiful on time launch from Cape Kennedy before the arrival of advancing storms.
Congratulations to the entire NASA and SpaceX teams for all the success.
Article and Photos by Scott Schilke for spacenews.lu & space-news.es