Lift off of the CRS-21 mission atop of the Falcon 9 Block 5 rocket

CRS-22 | Falcon 9 Block 5

Lift Off Time
(Subject to change)
June 03, 2021 17:29 UTC | 13:29 EDT
Mission Name
CRS-22, a Commercial Resupply Service mission to the International Space Station (ISS)
Launch Provider
(What rocket company is launching it?)
SpaceX
Customer
(Who’s paying for this?)
NASA
Rocket
Falcon 9 Block 5 B1067-1
Launch Location
Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A), Kennedy Space Center, Florida, USA
Payload mass
~3,328 kg (7,337 lb) cargo
Where is the spacecraft going?
Dragon C209-1 will rendezvous with the ISS, ~400 km low Earth orbit (LEO) at a 51.66° inclination
Will they be attempting to recover the first stage?
Yes
Where will the first stage land?
It will land ~400 km downrange on the autonomous spaceport drone ship Of Course I Still Love You
Will they be attempting to recover the fairings?
There are no fairings on the Dragon 2
Are these fairings new?
There are no fairings on the Dragon 2
How’s the weather looking?
TBD
This will be 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
Where to watch
SpaceX’s livestream

NASA’s livestream

What does all this mean?

CRS-22 is a Commercial Resupply Service mission that will be heading to the International Space Station (ISS). SpaceX was awarded this mission by NASA in 2016 and will launch it on its Falcon 9 Block 5 rocket using a Cargo Dragon 2, C209-1. The rocket will lift off from Launch Complex 39A, at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. This mission will mark the second flight for SpaceX under NASA’s CRS Phase 2 contract.

A patch of the CRS-22 (SpX-22) mission
CRS-22 (SpX-22) mission patch (Credit: SpaceX)

CRS-22

The ISS is a lab like no other, so are dozens of new experiments that will be delivered there by SpaceX’s Dragon. Moreover, this mission will bring new solar arrays to the ISS and deploy a sole ELaNa 36 CubeSat.

Research Payloads

Water Bears

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.

A light micrograph of a typical terrestrial tardigrade of the Milnesium genus seen at 40X magnification, one of the experiments that will be delivered on the CRS-22 mission
Light micrograph of a water bear, 40X magnification (Credit: Boothby Lab, University of Wyoming)

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.

Bobtail Squids

Another animal model that will join 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.

Bobtail squids will be used as a model to study effects of the space environment on the interactions between animal hosts and beneficial microbes.
Bobtail squids (Credit: Jamie S. Foster, University of Florida)

Pilote

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.

Cotton Plants

The CRS-22 mission will bring 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.

A cotton plant in the growth chamber, one of the experiments that will be delivered on the CRS-22 mission
TICTOC cotton growth chamber (Credit: Simon Gilroy, University of Wisconsin-Madison)

ISS Roll Out Solar Arrays (iROSA)

On this mission, SpaceX’s Dragon will deliver two of six new solar arrays to the ISS. These new panels are 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.

New solar arrays (Roll Out Solar Arrays (iROSA)) that CRS-22 mission will bring to the ISS
Roll Out Solar Arrays (iROSA) in Dragon’s unpressurized spacecraft trunk (Credit: SpaceX)

The new roll-out solar arrays (iROSA) will be delivered in the trunk of SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft and 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 will be 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

Dragon C209-1 will separate from the second stage of the Falcon 9 Block 5 at ~12 min after launch. After that, it will perform a series of thruster firings to adjust its orbit and reach the ISS. The spacecraft is scheduled to arrive at the ISS on Saturday, June 5. Dragon will autonomously dock to the ISS’ Harmony module. The two Flight Engineers Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur will be monitoring docking operations. Upon Dragon’s arrival, the crew will proceed 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.

Approximate Timeline

All times are approximate and based on the CRS-21 mission.

Pre-Launch

Hrs:Min:Sec
From Lift-Off
Events
– 00:38:00GO/NO GO poll for propellant load
– 00:35:00Propellants (RP-1/LOx) loading begins
– 00:35:00Dragon startup sequence begins
– 00:07:00Engine chilling begins
– 00:02:00LOx loading on the second stage should be completed
– 00:01:00Command flight computer enters startup mode
– 00:01:00Both stages begin to pressurize for launch
– 00:00:45SpaceX Launch Director confirms the GO for launch

Launch

Hrs:Min:Sec
From Lift-Off
Events
– 00:00:03Engine start sequence
00:00:00Lift-Off
+ 00:01:20Maximum dynamic pressure (Max Q)
+ 00:02:31Main engine cutoff (MECO)
+ 00:02:35Stage separation
+ 00:02:42Second engine start-1 (SES-1)
+ 00:06:30First stage entry burn begins
+ 00:08:18First stage landing burn begins
+ 00:08:36First stage landing legs deploy
+ 00:08:45First stage landing
+ 00:08:45Second engine cutoff-1 (SECO-1)
+ 00:12:00Dragon separation
+ 00:13:30Nosecone 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.

Lift-off of the Falcon 9 Block 5 with Cargo Dragon 2, CRS-21 mission
Lift-off of the Falcon 9 Block 5, CRS-21 mission (Credit: 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 will be 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 StageSecond Stage
Engine9 Merlin 1D engines1 vacuum optimized Merlin engine
Thrust Per Engine845 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
348 s

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 will carry Dragon to its intended orbit allowing the spacecraft to rendezvous with the ISS.

Merlin engine powers Falcon 9 Block 5 stages
Schematic representation of the Merlin engine. (Credit: Everyday Astronaut)

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 is B1067-1. It has not flown yet, thus, the CRS-22 mission will mark its first flight. This booster will be also used on the Crew-3 mission.

Cargo Dragon 2

The CRS-22 mission will be 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 and will automatically dock to the ISS. The old version had to be manually berthed by the Canadarm2.

Cargo Dragon 2 atop a Falcon 9 Block 5 rocket before the CRS-21 mission
The upgraded version of SpaceX’s Cargo Dragon spacecraft, Dragon 2 (Credit: NASA)

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 have been swapped for cargo racks. The environmental control system has been also reduced both in size and complexity.

Overall, the CRS-22 mission’s success criteria will be successful deployment of the Cargo Dragon 2 to the dedicated orbit, its docking to the ISS, and recovery of the B1067-1 booster.

9 comments
  1. As of June 1, 2021 SpaceX has 11 active boosters. Four of those boosters have not flown yet – the booster used in this mission and the three boosters allocated to a Falcon Heavy flight later this year.
    Of the seven flown boosters,, four have flown seven or more times.
    One milestone for this mission – First SpaceX launch in 2021 using a new booster.

    1. As a side note – the last SpaceX CRS mission that had both a new booster and a new capsule was back in CRS-12 (August 2017)

  2. Great summary, as usual. I looked at the flight profile and couldn’t figure out when the CubeSats will be released.

  3. Why did this mission do a boost-back burn? Were they unable to position the drone ship at the usual location or did they simply have the excess capacity to afford a boost-back that would keep recovery closer to shore?

    Due to the boost-back, the mission profile in this pre-launch preview is no longer accurate.

    1. Hey there, thank you for your comment. This was done to speed up recovery operations. You can find the accurate timeline of the mission in our post-launch review.

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