SpaceX has finally launched a Falcon 9 rocket loaded with supplies for the International Space Station (ISS) after power outages aboard the spacecraft caused delays.
The planned launch of the SpaceX Dragon cargo capsule was pushed back after a switch failure caused sections of the station’s power channels to cease to function. The power outage did not pose any threat to the six astronauts aboard; however, the channel which powers a robotic arm that assists spacecrafts in docking was also affected, leaving the cargo capsule with no safe way to join the ISS.
Shortly after the outage aboard the station, a separate blackout caused SpaceX’s floating rocket-landing platform in the Atlantic to lose power requiring a generator to provide back-up electricity.
NASA worked swiftly to try to resolve the problem and SpaceX was given the all clear to launch the rocket, which was carrying 5,500lbs of NASA cargo including a research kit designed to conduct experiments into Earth’s carbon cycle and how comets and asteroids are created.
Additional scientific materials aim to demonstrate if microscopic algae could be used in the spaceship environment. The microalgae can contribute to life support systems, generating oxygen and absorbing carbon dioxide. This would assist astronauts in the future as they journey further from Earth, which could reduce the number of supplies required for their mission.
The Dragon is also carrying Tissue chips, these small devices contain human cells in a 3D matrix that can be exposed to a variety of chemicals and toxins, which will allow astronauts to conduct medical experiments.
NASA explains the important purpose of the tests, “Fluid that mimics blood can be passed through the chip to simulate blood flow and can include drugs or toxins. In microgravity, changes occur in human health and human cells that resemble accelerated aging and disease processes. This investigation allows scientists to make observations over the course of a few weeks in microgravity rather than the months it would take in a laboratory on Earth.”
The launch of the Falcon 9 rocket was a success, after sending the Cargo Capsule into orbit and on route to the ISS, the Falcon landed without incident on the floating platform. The rocket is partially reusable and is SpaceX’s solution to cost-effective space travel.