SpaceX launched a load of supplies to the International Space Station on Saturday following a pair of unusual power delays, and now a Canadian astronaut will be waiting to snatch it when it arrives.
A Falcon rocket raced into the pre-dawn darkness on Saturday, carrying a Dragon capsule with about 2,500 kilograms of goods. This recycled Dragon – which is making its second space voyage – is due to arrive at the orbiting lab early Monday.
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That’s when Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques will be pressed into duty, manning the Canadarm 2 to perform his first-ever “cosmic catch” manoeuvre, backed up by NASA astronaut Nick Hague.
“We’re ready to capture with #Canadarm2 on Monday!,” Saint-Jacques tweeted.
This latest cargo Dragon – marking the company’s 17th shipment – is carrying equipment and experiments for the six space station astronauts, including an instrument to monitor carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere.
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Another part of the cargo aboard the Dragon capsule is 1.2 million tomato seeds heading to space as part of the Tomatosphere educational project.
The Canadian Space Agency says in a release the seeds will return to Earth a month later, along with blood and breath samples for a Canadian health probe into the impact of living in space on astronauts’ bone marrow.
SpaceX has been restocking the station since 2012.
The Saturday launch went smoothly, with the booster streaking to a smooth landing on a recovery ship just offshore.
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The delivery was a few days late because of electrical power shortages that cropped up first at the space station, then at SpaceX’s rocket-landing platform in the Atlantic. Both problems were quickly resolved with equipment replacements: a power-switching unit in orbit and a generator at sea.
SpaceX couldn’t resist the Star Wars Day connection – Saturday is May 4.
“Dragon is now officially on the way to the space station,” the SpaceX launch commentator announced once the capsule reached orbit and its solar wings unfurled. “Until next time, May the Fourth be with you.”