NASA is gearing up to launch a cargo mission to the International Space Station, delivering supplies and a new batch of experiments aboard a brand new SpaceX Dragon capsule.
The launch of the 26th commercial resupply mission is slated for no earlier than 3:54 p.m. (all times Eastern) on Tuesday from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The Dragon capsule will be attached to SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket, and is scheduled to dock with the ISS on Wednesday at 5:57 a.m. NASA will begin its live coverage of the launch at 3:30 p.m. on Tuesday.
For the latest mission, NASA’s commercial partner SpaceX will debut a new Dragon cargo capsule, named C211. Tuesday’s launch will mark the the first flight of C211, which is the third Dragon 2 cargo spacecraft built by SpaceX, according to Space News. “This is the last new cargo Dragon spacecraft we plan to build,” Sarah Walker, director of Dragon mission management at SpaceX, is quoted in SpaceNews as saying during a press briefing on November 18. “We recently decided to build one more crewed spacecraft as well.”
As the name suggests, the CRS-26 mission marks SpaceX’s 26th uncrewed resupply mission to the ISS as part of the company’s ongoing partnership with NASA to launch payloads to the orbiting space station. SpaceX also transports astronauts to the ISS under a commercial crew contract with NASA, sending the fifth crew to the space station in October.
The mission was originally scheduled to launch on Monday, but its liftoff was pushed back a day after a leak was detected in the Dragon capsule’s thermal control system.
CRS-26 will carry around 7,700 pounds (3,500 kilograms) of supplies and experiments to the ISS including four, shoe-box sized satellites to study satellite communication methods, space weather, and test new technology for robotic assembly of large telescopes, according to NASA.
The payload will also include a plant growth experiment dubbed Veggie, and it’s an effort to grow tomatoes on board the ISS for astronauts to munch on while living on the station. “We also are examining the overall effect of growing, tending, and eating crops on crew behavioral health,” Gioia Massa, NASA Life Sciences project scientist and VEG-05 principal investigator, said in a statement. “All of this will provide valuable data for future space exploration.”