Falcon 9 to launch CRS-22

  • Launch Vehicle: Falcon 9 B1067.1
  • Space Craft: Dragon Capsule
  • Mission: CRS-22 (Cargo Resupply Services 2s)
  • Date / Time: June 3, 2021 at 1729 UTC (1329 EDT)
  • Launch Site: LC-39A, NASA Kennedy Space Center, Florida, USA

Mission Overview:

The 22nd SpaceX cargo resupply mission carrying scientific research and technology demonstrations launches to the International Space Station from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida no earlier than June 3. Experiments aboard include studying how water bears tolerate space, whether microgravity affects symbiotic relationships, analyzing the formation of kidney stones, and more.

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket will send the company’s Dragon spacecraft, filled with more than 7,300 pounds of research, crew supplies and hardware to the space station to support expeditions 65 and 66. This Falcon 9 rocket booster is also slated to launch at least two crewed missions; Inspiration4 and Crew-3.

Payload Highlights for CRS-22

Water bears take on space
Tardigrades, known as water bears due to their appearance under a microscope and common habitat in water, are tiny creatures that tolerate environments more extreme than most life forms can. That makes them a model organism for studying biological survival under extreme conditions on Earth and in space. In addition, researchers have sequenced the genome of the tardigrade Hypsibius exemplaris and developed methods for measuring how different environmental conditions affect tardigrade gene expression. Cell Science-04 characterizes the molecular biology of short-term and multigenerational survival of water bears, identifying the genes involved in adaptation and survival in high stress environments. The results could advance understanding of the stress factors affecting humans in space and support development of countermeasures.

Cell Science-04 flies tardigrades, or water bears, to the space station for a study seeking to identify the genes involved in its adaptation and survival in high stress environments
| Credits: Thomas Boothby, University of Wyoming

Symbiotic squid and microbes in microgravity
UMAMI examines the effects of spaceflight on the molecular and chemical interactions between beneficial microbes and their animal hosts. Microbes play a significant role in the normal development of animal tissues and in maintaining human health.

“Animals, including humans, rely on our microbes to maintain a healthy digestive and immune system, We do not fully understand how spaceflight alters these beneficial interactions. The UMAMI experiment uses a glow-in-the-dark bobtail squid to address these important issues in animal health.”

– Jamie Foster, UMAMI principal investigator
These immature bobtail squid (Euprymna scolopes) are part of UMAMI, an investigation that examines whether space alters the symbiotic relationship between the squid and the bacterium Vibrio fischeri | Credits: Jamie S. Foster, University of Florida

The bobtail squid, Euprymna scolopes, is an animal model that is used to study symbiotic relationships between two species. This investigation helps determine whether spaceflight alters the mutually beneficial relationship, which could support development of protective measures and mitigation to preserve astronaut health on long-duration space missions.

On-the-spot ultrasound
Butterfly IQ Ultrasound demonstrates use of a portable ultrasound in conjunction with a mobile computing device in microgravity. The investigation collects crew feedback on ease of handling and quality of the ultrasound images, including image acquisition, display, and storage. The technology also has potential applications for medical care in remote and isolated settings on Earth.

Producing tougher cotton
Cotton plants that overexpress a certain gene show increased resistance to stressors, such as drought, and yield 20% more cotton fiber than plants without that characteristic under certain stress conditions. This stress resistance has been tentatively linked to having an enhanced root system that can tap into a larger volume of soil for water and nutrients. Targeting Improved Cotton Through On-orbit Cultivation (TICTOC) studies how root system structure affects plant resilience, water-use efficiency, and carbon sequestration during the critical phase of seedling establishment. Root growth patterns depend upon gravity, and TICTOC could help define which environmental factors and genes control root development in the absence of gravity.

A preflight photo of the TICTOC cotton growth chamber containing a seedling ready for harvest. Targeting Improved Cotton Through Orbital Cultivation (TICTOC) investigates the morphological and molecular adaptations of cotton seedlings to the microgravity environment encountered in the International Space Station (ISS) | Image courtesy of Tom Dreschel.

Bonus power
New solar panels are headed to station to increase the energy available for research and other onboard activities. The ISS Roll-out Solar Array (iROSA) is made up of compact panels, based on technology previously demonstrated on station, that roll open like unrolling a long rug. The Expedition 65 crew is scheduled to begin preparations for supplementing the station’s existing rigid panels this summer with the first pair of six new arrays.

This image shows the planned configuration of six iROSA solar arrays intended to augment power on the International Space Station. The roll-up arrays arrive on the SpaceX-22 resupply mission | Credits: NASA/Johnson Space Center/Boeing

Launch Trajectory

Launch Trajectory of the Falcon 9 rocket booster and landing area for the CRS-22 mission | screenshot from Flight Club

Launch Site

Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A) is a rocket launch site at the John F. Kennedy Space Center on Merritt Island in Florida, United States. The site and its collection of facilities were originally built as the Apollo program’s “Moonport” and later modified for the Space Shuttle program.

Bird eye view of LC-39A at NASA Kennedy Space Center, Florida, USA | image: Google Earth

Dragon Mission Duration

The spacecraft is expected to spend more than a month attached to the space station before it splashes down in the Atlantic Ocean, returning with research and return cargo.

Science to be Returned to Earth:

  • Catalytic Reactor Developmental Test Objective (DTO) – Developmental environmental control and life support system (ECLSS) unit returning for testing, teardown, and evaluation (TT&E) to determine the cause of failure and subsequent re-flight
  • Urine Processing Assembly (UPA) Distillation Assembly – Critical ECLSS orbital replacement unit used for urine distillation, processing, and future use returning for TT&E and refurbishment to support future spares demand
  • Sabatier Main Controller – Major Sabatier system hardware used in conjunction with the Oxygen Generation System (OGS) for water production needs on-orbit
  • Rodent Research Habitats (AEM-X) – Habitats used during Rodent Research missions returning for refurbishment to support future missions in early 2022
  • Nitrogen/Oxygen Recharge System (NORS) Recharge Tank Assembly (RTA) – Empty gas tanks returning for reuse to support high-pressure gas operations and activities on-orbit

Watch Live Stream