SpaceX, NASA, Mice Ready for Early Morning Launch, But Is Mother Nature? – UPDATE2

SpaceX, NASA, Mice Ready for Early Morning Launch, But Is Mother Nature? – UPDATE2

UPDATE 2: September 21, 2014.  SpaceX CRS-4 was successfully launched at 1:52 am EDT today.

UPDATE:  September 20, 2014.   The launch was scrubbed due to weather just after 1:30 pm EDT.  It had deteriorated to only 10 percent favorable.  The next opportunity is 1:52 am Sunday, September 21, when the weather is only 40 percent favorable for launch.  If it does not go then, September 23 is the next chance.

ORIGINAL STORY, September 19, 2014: NASA and SpaceX are getting ready for the launch of the SpaceX CRS-4 cargo mission to the International Space Station (ISS) at 2:14 am Eastern Daylight Time Saturday morning, about 8 hours from now, but the forecast is for just a 50 percent chance of favorable weather.  If the launch is postponed to Sunday, the weather chances improve to 70 percent.

This is SpaceX’s fourth operational cargo mission to the ISS and the first to carry mammals — 20 mice.  The mice, jokingly referred to as “moustronauts,” are in their own enclosure with a dedicated life support system. 

The “Rodent Research-1” experiment is joint between NASA and the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), an organization established by NASA to facilitate non-NASA use of ISS.  Ten of the mice are for NASA and 10 are for CASIS.  The main objective of this flight is to validate the hardware for subsequent rodent flights.   The mice will be transferred by the ISS crew to an ISS EXPRESS rack inside the ISS after SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft docks.  According to a NASA fact sheet, the mice will be euthanized after about 30 days while still on the ISS, frozen, and returned to Earth for study on a subsequent SpaceX flight.  Future rodent missions will be for increasingly longer durations to study the effects of spaceflight on mammals.

These are not the first rodents in space or the first on the ISS.  NASA flew rats and mice on 27 space shuttle missions, but the advantage of the ISS is that the experiments can run for a longer period of time.  Mice already have been on ISS as part of a 90-day Italian scientific experiment according to Ruth Globus from NASA’s Ames Research Center who spoke at a NASA press conference yesterday.  Russia also has launched a number of robotic biosatellite missions carrying rodents.

The mice are part of a total of 2.5 tons of supplies, experiments and technology demonstrations being delivered by Dragon.   Among the rest of the cargo is NASA’s RapidScat, the first of two earth science instruments due to be attached to the exterior of the ISS this year.  It will monitor ocean surface wind speed and direction.  The other, Cloud-Aerosol Transport System (CATS), is scheduled for the next SpaceX cargo flight.

Dragon is also delivering new batteries for the U.S. spacesuits aboard the ISS.  Two U.S. spacewalks planned in August were postponed until the new batteries could be delivered.   Another set of batteries will be delivered by the next ISS crew, scheduled for launch on September 25.  The spacewalks are now scheduled for October.

If the SpaceX CRS-4 launch is delayed beyond Sunday, the next opportunity will be on September 23.  After that, the mission will have to wait until after the September 25 ISS crew launch, probably until September 28.

NASA TV will provide live coverage of the SpaceX CRS-4 launch beginning at 1:00 am EDT.



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