Featured image credit: SpaceX
Lift Off Time
|June 03, 2021 – 17:29 UTC | 13:29 EDT|
|CRS-22, a Commercial Resupply Service mission to the International Space Station (ISS)|
|Falcon 9 Block 5 B1067-1|
|Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A), Kennedy Space Center, Florida, USA|
|~3,328 kg (7,337 lb) cargo|
Where did the spacecraft go?
|Dragon C209-1 rendezvoused with the ISS, ~400 km low Earth orbit (LEO) at a 51.66° inclination|
Did they attempt to recover the first stage?
Where did the first stage land?
|It landed 303 km downrange on the autonomous spaceport drone ship Of Course I Still Love You|
Did they attempt to recover the fairings?
|There are no fairings on the Dragon 2|
Were these fairings new?
|There are no fairings on the Dragon 2|
This was the:
|– 1st flight of B1067-1 booster|
– 1st flight of Cargo Dragon 2 C209-1
– 2nd SpaceX’s launch under the CRS 2 contract
– 2nd Cargo Dragon 2 to be produced
– 22nd SpaceX Commercial Resupply Services mission
– 1st SpaceX’s launch with a new booster in 2021
– 1st 1st Falcon 9 launch with no static fire beforehand
– 120th Falcon 9 launch
– 129th SpaceX mission
– 86th booster landing
– 17th launch for SpaceX in 2021
– 36th SpaceX launch from LC-39A
– 50th orbital launch attempt of 2021
– 48th successful orbital launch of 2021
Where to watch
How did it go?
CRS-22 is a Commercial Resupply Service mission that arrived at the International Space Station (ISS) on June 5, 2021. SpaceX was awarded this mission by NASA in 2016 and launched it on its Falcon 9 Block 5 rocket using a Cargo Dragon 2, C209-1. The rocket lifted off from Launch Complex 39A, at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. This mission marked the second flight for SpaceX under NASA’s CRS Phase 2 contract.
The ISS is a lab like no other, so are dozens of new experiments that were delivered there by SpaceX’s Dragon. Moreover, this mission brought new solar arrays to the ISS and deployed a sole ELaNa 36 CubeSat.
Tardigrades – AKA water bears or moss piglets – are the first known animals that could tolerate extreme environments, such as enormous radiation, hard vacuum, and the strong solar UV radiation of space. Thus, these micro-creatures (fully grown water bears are only 0.5 mm (0.02 in) long) represent a valuable model for studying the mechanisms of stress tolerance. After receiving them at the ISS, the crew will conduct experiments that could provide a better understanding of the stress factors affecting humans in space.
Butterfly IQ Ultrasound
Butterfly IQ Ultrasound is a portable ultrasound device designed to be used by the crew without the assistance of physicians. This technology is very timely since it can provide comprehensive diagnostic capability on missions beyond low-Earth orbits (LEO). As an example, the average distance between Earth and Mars is estimated at 225 million km. That means that communications delay between the crew and Earth can be between 4 and 22 minutes. Thus, immediate ground support will not be possible. This is why the developed instrument might come in handy in some urgent situations on long-term spaceflights. The crew at the ISS will evaluate its performance and give feedback on the ease of handling and quality of the ultrasound images.
Another animal model that joined the crew is bobtail squids. These species are a part of the Understanding of Microgravity on Animal-Microbe Interactions (UMAMI) project. It is well known that beneficial microbes play a crucial role in maintaining healthy immune and digestive systems. However, their interactions with animal hosts in microgravity are not fully understood. UMAMI will study these relationships using the bobtail squid and its bacteria.
Pilote is a project developed by the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales (CNES). The crew will use virtual reality to test the remote operation of robotic arms and space vehicles. This could help to further improve and optimize workstations.
A 3D Kidney Cell Model
A 3D kidney cell model, or a tissue chip, will be used to study the formation of microcrystals that eventually can lead to kidney stones. In the labs on Earth, it is hard to reproduce the environment found in the kidneys. This is because at 1g those microcrystals will easily sink to the bottom of the tissue chip. Microgravity, in turn, creates conditions, in which they remain evenly suspended in the kidney chip tubes. This provides better observation of the processes and more relevant data to design new treatments for both astronauts and everyday people on Earth.
The CRS-22 mission brought to the crew not only animals but also some plants. The Targeting Improved Cotton Through On-orbit Cultivation (TICTOC) program will study the influence of the root system on plant functions that are crucial for their survival. Among them are stress resistance, and water- and nutrient-use efficiency. Overall, this project will evaluate which factors and genes control cotton roots development in space. This could help to develop cotton varieties that require less water and pesticides for normal growth.
Another exciting experiment that was delivered to the ISS is a Colgate-Palmolive project. This is the first-ever private sector oral care experiment that will be conducted in a microgravity environment. It is designed to learn more about the growth and metabolism of the bacteria that can have an impact on both oral and overall health.
ISS Roll Out Solar Arrays (iROSA)
On this mission, SpaceX’s Dragon delivered two of six new solar arrays to the ISS. These new panels were provided by the companies Boeing, Spectrolab, and Deployable Space Systems (DSS). Currently, there are four pairs of solar arrays at the ISS, the first of which was deployed in 2000. Although they are still functioning quite well, some signs of degradation started to appear. This is not surprising, since they were only designed for a 15-years life service, which means that the first two arrays have already exceeded their lifespan.
The new roll-out solar arrays (iROSA) were delivered in the trunk of SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft and will be installed in front of the current ones, shading a little over half of their length. Prior to the installation of each one of them, an additional spacewalk is required to prepare the worksite.
ELaNa 36 CubeSat
Among the payload in the Dragon spacecraft was a sole CubeSat that will be deployed under the ELaNa 36 (Educational Launch of Nanosatellites) program. RamSat, a small research satellite, was developed by Robertsville Middle School in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.
ELaNa is an initiative that was proposed by NASA and is managed by the Launch Services Program (LSP) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. The main aim of this program is to collaborate with universities all across the US to design, manufacture, and launch research satellites into space. ELaNa brings university students closer to real space missions, giving them opportunities to dive in and to get involved in the process from A to Z, from designing and assembling CubeSats, to launching and operating them.
CRS-22 Mission Profile
The CRS-22 mission launched on June 3, 2021, from Launch Complex 39A, at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. At T+00:01:15, the Falcon 9 has passed through Max Q with propulsion continuing nominally. Then, nine Merlin 1D engines on the rocket’s first stage shut down followed by successful Stage 1 separation and Stage 2 ignition. After separation, the first stage performed a flip maneuver and, a few seconds later, a partial boostback burn to slow itself down for re-entry. From there, at T+00:06:00, the booster executed a re-entry burn supported by the ignition of three Merlin 1D engines. Finally, a landing burn ignited the center engine to slow the booster rapidly down just before landing on the autonomous spaceport drone ship Of Course I Still Love You.
Dragon C209-1 separated from the second stage of the Falcon 9 Block 5 at T+00:12:00 after launch. After that, it performed a series of thruster firings to adjust its orbit and reach the ISS. The spacecraft arrived at the ISS at 5:09 am EDT (9:09 am UTC) on Saturday, June 5. Dragon autonomously docked to the ISS’ Harmony module. The two Flight Engineers Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur monitored docking operations. Upon Dragon’s arrival, the crew proceeded with unloading the cargo.
Dragon C209-1 will spend more than a month at the ISS. Its mission will end in July 2021. After that, the spacecraft will travel back to Earth and will splash down under parachutes in the Atlantic ocean, returning research and cargo to Earth. The following CRS missions are going to last longer – around 3 months.
|– 00:38:00||GO/NO GO poll for propellant load|
|– 00:35:00||Propellants (RP-1/LOx) loading began|
|– 00:35:00||Dragon startup sequence began|
|– 00:07:00||Engine chilling began|
|– 00:03:20||Strongback retract started|
|– 00:02:30||LOx loading on the first stage completed|
|– 00:01:50||LOx loading on the second stage completed|
|– 00:01:00||Command flight computer entered startup mode|
|– 00:01:00||Both stages began to pressurize for launch|
|– 00:00:45||SpaceX Launch Director confirmed the GO for launch|
|– 00:00:03||Engine start sequence|
|+ 00:01:15||Maximum dynamic pressure (Max Q)|
|+ 00:02:30||Main engine cutoff (MECO)|
|+ 00:02:35||Stage separation|
|+ 00:02:45||Second engine start-1 (SES-1)|
|+ 00:02:50||First stage boostback burn|
|+ 00:03:22||First stage boostback shutdown|
|+ 00:06:00||First stage entry burn began|
|+ 00:07:20||First stage landing burn began|
|+ 00:07:45||First stage landing legs deploy|
|+ 00:07:50||First stage landing|
|+ 00:08:48||Second engine cutoff-1 (SECO-1)|
|+ 00:12:00||Dragon separation|
|+ 00:17:40||Nosecone deploy|
What is Falcon 9 Block 5?
SpaceX’s Falcon 9 Block 5 is a medium-lift launch vehicle that stands out among others for its partial reusability. By re-flying boosters and fairings, SpaceX not only cuts down the cost of space access, but also increases the reliability of the rocket. Block 5 is the final iteration of the Falcon 9 that is designed, manufactured, and operated by SpaceX.
The rocket consists of a reusable first stage, an interstage, and a second stage. Falcon 9 Block 5 can be flown with either a fairing or a Dragon spacecraft. On the CRS-22 mission, the Cargo Dragon C209-1 was used to deliver research and other payloads to the ISS.
Falcon 9 Block 5 is about 70 meters (229.6 ft) in height and 3.7 meters (12 feet) in diameter. The vehicle’s structures are made of an aluminum-lithium alloy, which results in a total dry mass of 549,054 kg (1,207,920 lb). The rocket’s payload lift capacity to low-Earth orbit (LEO) is 22,800 kg (50,265 lb).
First and Second Stage
|First Stage||Second Stage|
|Engine||9 Merlin 1D engines||1 vacuum optimized Merlin engine|
|Thrust Per Engine||845 kN (190,000 Ibf), sea level|
934 kN (209,971 Ibf), vacuum
|992 kN (223,100 lbf)|
|Specific Impulse (ISP)||285 s, sea level|
313 s, vacuum
The Falcon 9’s first stage is composed of aluminum-lithium alloy tanks for propellants and four landing legs, which are stowed at the base and deploy just before landing. This stage is powered by nine sea-level Merlin 1D engines. The second stage also consists of tanks for propellants and is powered by a single vacuum optimized Merlin engine or MVac. The main difference between these two variations of the Merlin engine is that the latter has an expanded nozzle that results in improved performance in near-vacuum conditions. The second stage is what carried Dragon to its intended orbit allowing the spacecraft to rendezvous with the ISS.
The Merlin engine runs on rocket-grade kerosene (RP-1) and liquid oxygen (LOx), and uses a gas generator cycle. Falcon 9 uses helium as a pressurant to backfill the propellant tanks as RP-1 and LOx are being consumed by the engines during ascent.
The interstage connects the first and second stages of the vehicle and is responsible for their separation during flight. It also accommodates four hypersonic grid fins at the base. They help to orient the booster during re-entry.
The booster supporting this mission was B1067-1. The CRS-22 mission marked its first flight. This booster will be also used on the Crew-3 mission.
Cargo Dragon 2
The CRS-22 mission was the first mission to the ISS for Cargo Dragon C209-1. This is the second Cargo Dragon 2 produced by SpaceX. It is 8.1 m (26.6 ft in) in height and 3.7 meters (12 feet) in diameter. Compared to the original Cargo Dragon, the upgraded spacecraft can automatically dock to the ISS. The old version had to be manually berthed by the Canadarm2.
The Cargo Dragon 2 shares a similar design with the Crew Dragon intended to carry astronauts to the ISS and back to Earth. However, there are some differences. The Cargo Dragon 2 does not have SuperDraco abort engines, nor a life support system since there will be no human passengers on board. In the pressurized section, the seats and crew displays had been swapped for cargo racks. The environmental control system had been also reduced both in size and complexity.
Overall, the CRS-22 mission’s success criteria were the successful deployment of the Cargo Dragon 2 to the dedicated orbit, its docking to the ISS, and recovery of the B1067-1 booster. All of them were met on this mission.