SpaceX Falcon 9, Dragon target Monday launch from KSC

SpaceX and NASA engineers will gather Sunday at Kennedy Space Center to confirm their readiness for a planned Monday afternoon launch of International Space Station supplies.

Liftoff by a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon cargo capsule from KSC’s pad 39A is scheduled for 12:31 p.m. Monday.

The weather outlook is promising, with a 70 percent chance of acceptable conditions during an instantaneous window that puts the rocket on course to chase down the station orbiting 250 miles up.

Less than eight minutes after the launch, the rocket’s first-stage booster will attempt to land on legs on a Cape Canaveral Air Force Station pad down the coast from the launch site.

The landing will generate loud sonic booms likely to rumble across the region at touchdown.

Afternoon thunderstorms could hinder crews’ efforts to secure the booster that SpaceX hopes to recover and refurbish for a future mission.

Shortly after the landing, if all goes well, the Dragon carrying about 6,400 pounds of food, equipment and science experiments should reach orbit to start a two-day journey to the ISS.

The Dragon’s arrival for a roughly one-month visit at the orbiting research complex would be expected early Wednesday, when a pair of astronauts will capture the spacecraft with a robotic arm.

Experiments arriving with the Dragon include at least 20 mice, flying as part of a study of vision loss and joint changes in microgravity; a cosmic ray instrument; and a protein crystallization experiment that could benefit treatment of Parkinson’s disease, developed by researchers including the Michael J. Fox Foundation.

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KSC on Sunday will host prelaunch news conferences about the mission and its  science objectives at 2 p.m. and 3:30 p.m., broadcast on NASA TV. 

The launch is SpaceX’s 11th this year, and its 12th of 20 resupply missions planned under a contract NASA first awarded in 2008.

The mission could be the first of two launched from the Cape this week. A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket is targeting an 8:03 a.m. Friday flight with a NASA tracking and data relay satellite.

Contact Dean at 321-242-3668 or jdean@floridatoday.com. And follow on Twitter at @flatoday_jdean and on Facebook at facebook.com/jamesdeanspace.

Launch Monday

Rocket: SpaceX Falcon 9

Mission: 12th SpaceX Dragon resupply mission to the International Space Station (CRS-12)

Launch time: 12:31 p.m.

Launch window: Instantaneous

Launch complex: 39A at Kennedy Space Center

Join floridatoday.com at 11 a.m. for countdown chat and updates, including streaming of NASA TV launch coverage and SpaceX’s launch webcast. 

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