SpaceX's CRS-5 cargo delivery mission is the fifth resupply flight to the International Space Station for NASA under a commercial contract. For this flight, the unmanned Dragon capsule is packed with nearly 5,200 lbs. (2,360 kilograms) of supplies and instruments to support 256 scientific investigations. You can watch the SpaceX launch live on Space.com beginning at 3:30 a.m. EST (0830 GMT), courtesy of NASA TV.
Along for the ride are some unusual passengers:
Flatworms will be studied to see how microgravity affects their regenerative and wound-healing abilities.
Dragon is also carrying NASA experiment called CATS (Cloud-Aerosol Transport System). The instrument, which will be attached to the exterior of the space station, uses lasers to measure the worldwide distribution of clouds and aerosol particles (haze, dust, air pollution and smoke). Clouds and aerosols play a role in cooling or warming Earth’s climate, depending on their altitude and thickness.
Two plant experiments are also hoping to take root in space once the Dragon spacecraftdelivers them to the station. The experiments will study how Arabidopsis thaliana, also known as the mouse-ear cress plant, grows in space. Both experiments, which were developed by NASA, will study how microgravity alters root and seed development.
Another experiment, called the Self-Assembly in Biology and the Origin of Life, or SABOL, will study how proteins form into long linear fibers as part of research into Alzheimer's disease.
More than a dozen student experiments developed by students from grades 5 and up are also making the trip into space on Dragon. The experiments, about 16 in all, were initially among 18 picked to fly on an Orbital Sciences Antares rocket in October 2014. But that Antares rocket exploded shortly after liftoff, so replacement experiments are how hitching a ride on Dragon.
In addition to the science experiments riding on Dragon, the spacecraft is also carrying new equipment for the space station's crew.
An IMAX video camera, spacewalk tools and gear from Russia and Japan are also making the trip alongside the traditional shipment of food, water and clothing.
SpaceX has a $1.6 billion contract with NASA to provide 12 cargo delivery missions to the space station. The company's first mission, called CRS-1, launched in 2012.
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