SpaceX launches its 23rd Commercial Resupply Services mission

NASA has confirmed the successful launch of a SpaceX Dragon resupply spacecraft that is heading to the ISS. The spacecraft launched Sunday, August 29, at 3:14 AM EDT. The Dragon spacecraft was pushed into orbit atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, with a launch happening at Kennedy Space Center from Launch Complex 39A.The launch marks the 23rd Commercial Resupply Services mission that SpaceX has undertaken. Docking for the capsule will happen autonomously around 11 AM on Monday, August 30. NASA says the capsule will remain attached to the ISS for about a month for returning to Earth. NASA will air coverage of the automated docking beginning about 9:30 AM via the NASA app, website, and NASA Television.

In addition to taking supplies for the crew, the capsule is also taking several new science experiments. One of the experiments is READI FP, designed to evaluate the impact of microgravity and radiation on bone tissue growth. It also is designed to test whether bioactive metabolites might help protect bones during spaceflight. The long-term health of astronauts is particularly important as NASA, and other space agencies eye extended duration missions to Mars and beyond.

Another experiment is called Retinal Diagnostics. That experiment is a light-based device designed to capture retinal images of astronauts to document a problem with vision that afflicts astronauts called Space-Associated Neuro-Ocular Syndrome.

The Dragon spacecraft is also taking a new robotic arm to the station to demonstrate its versatility and dexterity in microgravity. The results of the test could eventually lead to robotic labor assistance supporting the crew aboard the station. Several other experiments are being sent to the ISS aboard the flight as well. Typically, when SpaceX capsules return to Earth, they bring back finished experiments for further study. Presumably, when the Dragon leaves in about a month, it will do the same.