Through the Lens: SpaceX's Fifth Dragon Resupply Launch to ISS in Stunning Imagery

LIFTOFF of SpaceX's Falcon-9 booster Saturday morning, Jan. 10, 2014, kicking off the first U.S. launch of 2015 and the company's fifth NASA-contracted Dragon resupply mission to the International Space Station. Photo Credit: Mike Killian / AmericaSpace

LIFTOFF of SpaceX’s Falcon-9 booster Saturday morning, Jan. 10, 2015, kicking off the first U.S. launch of 2015 and the company’s fifth NASA-contracted Dragon resupply mission to the International Space Station. Photo Credit: Mike Killian / AmericaSpace

In the early morning hours of Saturday, Jan. 10, 2015, SpaceX kicked off the United States’ busy 2015 space launch manifest with their fifth NASA-contracted Dragon resupply flight to the International Space Station (ISS). Onboard the $100 billion orbiting science research outpost is over 5,000 pounds of supplies, cargo, and experiments for the Expedition 42 crew (and later Expedition 43), including critical materials to support 256 science and research investigations, and the AmericaSpace imagery team set out to capture some up-close views of the launch. 

READ our in-depth CRS-5 post-launch report!

The primary objective is, obviously, to fulfill the customer’s requirements (NASA), delivering payload to the ISS and, in four weeks, bringing back more than 3,600 pounds of cargo, including crew supplies, hardware and computer resources, science experiments, space station hardware, and trash. However, SpaceX had a secondary objective, which caught the attention of the public more than the mission itself, and that was to land their Falcon-9 rocket first stage booster on an autonomous barge known as the “Autonomous Spaceport Drone Ship” (ASDS), which was positioned roughly 200 miles offshore of the Florida/South Carolina border.

The Falcon-9 pushing through the upper atmosphere above Cape Canaveral, Fla. with the Dragon CRS-5 bound for the ISS. Photo Credit: John Studwell / AmericaSpace

Falcon-9 pushing through the upper atmosphere above Cape Canaveral, Fla. with Dragon CRS-5, headed for the ISS. Photo Credit: John Studwell / AmericaSpace

The attempt alone was a historic first, and although the rocket did not “soft-land” on the ASDS it did hit the ASDS, a feat which in and of itself is worthy of respect, especially considering that stabilizing the 150-foot-tall rocket stage in flight—traveling at a velocity of 2,900 mph at separation—has been likened to someone balancing a rubber broomstick on their hand in the middle of a fierce wind storm.

Rocket made it to drone spaceport ship, but landed hard. Close, but no cigar this time. Bodes well for the future tho,” said SpaceX CEO Elon Musk via Twitter (@ElonMusk) Saturday morning after launch. “Ship itself is fine, some of the support equipment on the deck will need to be replaced. Grid fins worked extremely well from hypersonic velocity to subsonic, but ran out of hydraulic fluid right before landing.”

Upcoming flight already has 50% more hydraulic fluid, so should have plenty of margin for landing attempt next month,” added Musk, who did not clarify which launch would be the next for another booster landing attempt.

In doing so the company is making strides with developing the technology to land their booster and re-use it, a history-making feat which many expect the company to accomplish this year. Never has it been done before, and the expectation is that once the Falcon-9 is truly reusable it will drive down the costs of access to space dramatically. Space is simply too expensive for anyone other than governments and companies loaded with ridiculous amounts of cash; a fact Musk would like to see changed within his lifetime, and a change that is absolutely necessary if mankind ever hopes to put boots on Mars or reach other deep space destinations one day.

LISTEN to our own Dr. Ken Kremer’s live radio interview with BBC 5LIVE this weekenddiscussing SpaceX’s first attempt to land and return their Falcon-9 booster.

Flying to the ISS on Dragon CRS-5 is a new set of 18 unique experiments from 18 student communities which were lost months ago when an Orbital Sciences Antares rocket exploded seconds after liftoff, as well as NASA’s Cloud-Aerosol Transport System (CATS) remote sensing instrument, which will go to work on the ISS to investigate the layers and composition of clouds and small particles like dust, smoke, and other aerosols in the atmosphere to help scientists better understand how aerosols impact weather and climate across the planet. Another experiment being flown will study planarian flatworms, which are capable of rebuilding body organs and nervous systems after damage, to better understand the process of wound healing in space.

An IMAX camera is hitching a ride on Dragon to the ISS, too, for filming during four increments, along with various tools that will be used in future spacewalks to prepare the station for the installation of new international docking adapters.

Dragon will arrive at the ISS tomorrow morning, Monday, Jan. 12, with “capture” scheduled for 6:00 a.m. EST, followed by Dragon’s installation to the Earth-facing port of the Harmony module later that morning.

We will be streaming LIVE COVERAGE of Dragon’s arrival at the ISS Monday morning.

 

BELOW: AmericaSpace CRS-5 launch photo and video imagery.

CREDITS: Alan Walters / John Studwell / Mike Killian / Jeff Seibert and Mike Barrett for AmericaSpace, all rights reserved, use without permission is strictly prohibited.

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From the roof of NASA's 525-foot tall Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB)

From the roof of NASA’s 525-foot tall Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB)

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Above Video, Credit: NASA TV / Mike Barrett and Jeff Seibert / AmericaSpace

 

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