The launch of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket Monday to carry supplies to the International Space Station kicks off an exceptionally busy few weeks in space, with a Russian spacewalk on tap Thursday, a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 flight Friday, the 40th anniversary of the Voyager program’s first launch on Sunday and a.
SpaceX plans another launch, this one from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, on August 24 to boost an Earth observation satellite into orbit for Taiwan, followed by the launch of a solid-fuel Orbital ATK Minotaur rocket from Cape Canaveral on August 25 carrying a military satellite.
Three space station crew members return to Earth on September 2. Then, another— this one carrying an X-37B Air Force space plane — is expected to launch from Florida around September 7 and another ULA Atlas 5 is scheduled for takeoff September 11 to boost a classified military payload into space. The next day, three fresh space station crew members take off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan to boost the lab’s crew back up to six.
The surge begins at 12:31 p.m. EDT (GMT-4) Monday when SpaceX launches its 39th Falcon 9 rocket, its ninth flight from historic pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center and its 11th flight overall this year. Forecasters are predicting a 70 percent chance of good weather.
Mounted atop the slender rocket is a Dragon cargo ship loaded with more than 3 tons of cargo, supplies and research equipment bound for the International Space Station. Assuming an on-time launch, astronaut Jack Fischer, operating the station’s robot arm, will snare the Dragon early Wednesday so it can be pulled in for berthing.
Because of the time needed to catch up with the station, limited shelf life for several on-board experiments and the Russian spacewalk Thursday, SpaceX will not have a second launch opportunity Tuesday. If the flight is delayed for any reason, it will slip to sometime after the Friday launch of…