CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida -- NASA says that the launch of the SpaceX Dragon Capsule aboard a Falcon 9 rocket has a 60% weather chance for launch at 8:35 p.m. EDT on Sunday October 7, 2012 from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida with a concern for thick cumulus clouds and flight through precipitation.
The SpaceX launch on October 7 does not have a lengthy launch window. Instead, there is a single instantaneous launch opportunity. Backup launch opportunities are available on October 8 and 9.
SpaceX Launch Weather
A weakening boundary is making a slow push through the Florida peninsula over the next few days. Models have been inconsistent on the placement of this boundary on launch day. If the boundary makes a stronger push south of the Spaceport by launch time, drier air and more favorable weather conditions will result.
However, if the boundary is still in the Central Florida area Sunday at launch time, significant clouds and scattered precipitation will cause unfavorable launch weather. Either way some associated upper level moisture will likely remain in the area Sunday.
By Monday and Tuesday, the boundary is forecast to weaken over the Central Florida area and continue moving slowly south, resulting in gradually improving weather conditions each day with less clouds and precipitation.
SpaceX Launch and Mission
The SpaceX CRS-1 mission is set to launch the first of a dozen operational missions for NASA to deliver more than 1,000 pounds of supplies to the International Space Station.
Eleven minutes after launch, when the Dragon capsule is safely in orbit, a pair of solar arrays will deploy from the sides of the Dragon and controllers on Earth will begin testing rendezvous sensors.
The mission is similar to the demonstration flight in May when a Dragon was grappled by the station's robotic arm to complete the first rendezvous and berthing by a private spacecraft at the space station.
NASA says that a major difference for this mission is that the Dragon will be filled with an amount of cargo suitable for an operational mission. The prior flight carried just enough items to prove the capsule would do its job as a cargo hauler. This time, the manifest will include a freezer for the station's scientific samples, a powered middeck locker with an experiment inside along with a variety of materials for the astronauts living and working on the space station.
The supply flight is part of NASA's Commercial Resupply Services contract, which is paying SpaceX for 12 cargo runs to the orbiting laboratory. The station also is serviced by Russian Progress cargo capsules, European-made and launched Automated Transfer Vehicles, or ATVs, and Japanese-produced H-II Transfer Vehicles, or HTVs. All the cargo ships operate without astronauts or crew members aboard.
Once the spacecraft arrive at the station, the astronauts and cosmonauts onboard unload them and fill them with used materials or unneeded equipment before releasing them.
The Dragon capsules are built with heat shields to survive a plunge through the atmosphere and splashdown safely in the ocean under billowing parachutes. The other Space Station cargo craft do not carry heat shields, so they just burn up in the atmosphere.
On its return trip, the Dragon capsule will carry more than a ton of scientific samples collected during space station research, along with the freezer the samples have been stored in. Astronauts also will load used station hardware into the capsule for return to Earth where engineers can get a firsthand look at it.
Best Places To Watch SpaceX Launch
Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex is offering the public an opportunity to view this night launch from the NASA Causeway, the closest public viewing area to the launch pad. A limited number of Special Access Passes to the NASA Causeway can be purchased for $20 plus tax, in addition to admission. Bus boarding will begin at 5:30 p.m. EDT for transportation to the NASA Causeway.
Launch viewing is also available from Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, including live mission control commentary, and is included with regular admission.
For more information or to purchase tickets, call 877-313-2610 and visit www.KennedySpaceCenter.com. Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex admission is $50 + tax for adults and $40 + tax for children ages 3-11.
Free Places To Watch SpaceX Launch
Free places to watch the SpaceX launch are located from Titusville southward along the Indian River, between Merritt Island and Cape Canaveral along State Road 528, Port Canaveral with best viewing and parking at Jetty Park, and along the beaches of Cape Canaveral and Cocoa Beach, Florida. (There is metered parking in Cocoa Beach that only accepts quarters, so bring some change).
SOURCE: NASA and USAF
Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett