NASA has launched SpaceX's Dragon resupply spacecraft with more than 7,000 pounds of science experiments, two new solar panels, and other cargo including blueberries to the International Space Station (ISS).
The liftoff was scrubbed twice over the weekend due to bad weather. Finally, the uncrewed SpaceX Dragon spacecraft launched on the company's Falcon 9 rocket at 11:47 a.m. EDT, Monday (9:17 p.m. IST) from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
The cargo spacecraft is scheduled to autonomously dock with the space-facing port on the station's Harmony module at approximately 5:50 a.m. (3:20 pm IST) and remain at the station for about 21 days.
The resupply mission carries more than 7,000 pounds of cargo to the orbiting laboratory. It includes a pair of IROSAs (International Space Station Roll Out Solar Arrays) that, once installed, will expand the energy-production capabilities of the microgravity complex.
Currently, the space station has four IROSAs panels. With the two new arrays, the ISS's energy production capabilities will improve by 20-30 per cent and help the station to remain operational until its decommissioning in 2030, NASA said. The final pair of panels will be installed by astronauts later this month.
The spacecraft will also deliver an investigation from the European Space Agency to observe thunderstorms from the space station; a probe to create a second generation of plants using seeds previously produced in space and returned to Earth.
The cargo also includes testing a technique for measuring telomere length in microgravity, where methods typically employed on Earth are difficult to use due to gravity.
Besides the science experiments, the astronauts aboard the ISS are also anticipating the fresh food - including cheese, cherry tomatoes, blueberries and apples, TechCrunch reported.
This marks the 36th Falcon 9 mission so far this year and the 28th time SpaceX has sent cargo to the ISS. The company's been conducting resupply missions on behalf of NASA as part of its Commercial Resupply Services contract.