The International Space Station is about to get another commercial shipment.
If all goes according to plan, by the time you’re reading this the California company SpaceX would have launched its unmanned Falcon rocket, hoisting a Dragon capsule containing more than a ton of food, tools, computer hardware and science experiments.
There won’t be any ice cream, though, for the six-man station crew. The freezers going up are filled with mouse stem cells, protein crystals and other research items. On the previous Dragon delivery in October, chocolate-vanilla swirl was tucked inside.
Forecasters put the odds of good weather at 80 percent. Launch time is 10.10 a.m Friday morning EST.
NASA is paying SpaceX to supply the orbiting lab; the contract is worth $1.6 billion for 12 delivery runs.
If launched Friday, the Dragon should arrive at the space station on Saturday morning. Astronauts will use the station’s robot arm to grab the Dragon and attach it to the orbiting complex.
This latest Dragon will spend more than three weeks at the space station before departing and parachuting into the Pacific with a full load of medical specimens, fish, plants and old equipment.
NASA’s shuttles used to be the main haulers up and down, but retired two years ago.
SpaceX, based in Hawthorne, California, is working to modify its Dragon capsules to transport astronauts to the station in another few years.
Until then, NASA is buying seats for its astronauts on Russian Soyuz rockets to get to the station.
This Falcon is not carrying a commercial satellite.
What’s on board?
Snacks straight from the orchard of an employee’s father
640 seeds of mouse-ear cress, a small flowering weed
Paint, for experiments to see how it dries and adheres in space