Loaded with supplies and science experiments for the International Space Station (ISS), SpaceX’s Falcon 9 will launch Saturday, February 18 from the Kennedy Space Center’s historic Launch Complex 39A, now renovated to accommodate both the Falcon 9 and the company’s upcoming Falcon Heavy rockets.
Constructed during the 1960s, the launchpad was the site from which the Apollo 11 Moon mission, as well as the first and last space shuttle missions, took off.
SpaceX began leasing the site from NASA two years ago. Saturday’s launch will mark the company’s first time taking off from Florida since its Falcon 9 exploded September 1 in pre-launch testing at nearby Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
Among the supplies being carried aboard the company’s Dragon capsule is a host of science experiments, including one designed by high school students at Morehead State University’s Craft Academy.
That experiment will study the impact that time spent in microgravity has on the contraction of smooth muscle cells lining veins and arteries, using cells taken from rats.
Samples of the MRSA “superbug” are being sent to the ISS in a sealed environment as part of an experiment to monitor the bacteria’s growth and mutation in a zero-gravity environment.
Other science experiments being sent to space include a study of the growth of antibody crystals, equipment to monitor lightning in Earth’s stratosphere, and a Raven tech demonstration system to monitor vehicles coming to and departing from the ISS.
Raven was developed by NASA Goddard Space Flight Center’s Satellite Servicing Projects Division for the long-term goal of autonomous arrivals at and departures from ISS by satellites and other spacecraft.
The Dragon will carry more than 5,500 pounds (2,500 kg) of supplies worth about $3 billion in its 10th ISS resupply mission and will return to Earth carrying another 5,000 pounds (2,300 kg) of cargo.