SpaceX Dragon 'go' to launch NASA cargo to space station Thursday

A new SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the the CRS-22 Dragon cargo ship rolls out to its Pad 39A launchpad at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida on June 1, 2021.
A new SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the the CRS-22 Dragon cargo ship rolls out to its Pad 39A launchpad at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida on June 1, 2021. (Image credit: SpaceX)

A brand-new SpaceX booster, a rarity for the reusable rocket company, is ready to launch a fresh cargo ship to the International Space Station for NASA on Thursday (June 3). 

The Falcon 9 rocket is cleared to launch the CRS-22 Dragon cargo mission to the space station from Pad 39A of NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Liftoff is set for 1:29 p.m. EDT (1729 GMT). NASA's launch webcast, which you'll be able to watch here on, will begin at 12:30 p.m. EDT (1630 GMT). 

"We are less than 24 hours away from our 22nd resupply mission to the International Space Station," Sarah Walker, Dragon mission management for SpaceX, which has been flying commercial cargo missions for NASA since 2012, said during a news conference held Wednesday (June 2). "I feel like I blinked and we're here talking about the 22nd one."

Related: SpaceX will launch baby squid and tardigrades to the space station

Thursday's launch will haul about 4,300 lbs. (1,950 kilograms) of pressurized cargo to the International Space Station, including fresh supplies for the station's astronaut crew and experiment gear, as well as two new roll-out solar arrays to be installed during upcoming spacewalks, NASA's Joel Montalbano, space station program manager, told reporters. 

While SpaceX is nearing the two-dozen mark with its NASA cargo missions, the upcoming CRS-22 flight stands apart from recent flights because of its new booster. The company regularly reflies the first stages of its Falcon 9 rockets — and even its Dragon capsules — as part of its reusability program to lower launch costs. 

"This is the 17th mission that SpaceX has launched just in this front half of 2021 this year, and the first one where we're introducing a new booster to the fleet," Walker said, adding that the company's recent baseline has been to fly Falcon 9 stages at least two or three times (the current record is 10 flights, set last month). "So we're actually surprised when we get to a mission like today's where we're flying a new booster. I think that's really neat."

The SpaceX Dragon cargo ship for the CRS-22 resupply mission for NASA is prepared for a June 3, 2021 launch at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. (Image credit: SpaceX)

If all goes well, the pristine Falcon 9 booster will launch its CRS-22 Dragon cargo ship into orbit and then land on SpaceX's drone ship Of Course I Still Love You in the Atlantic Ocean so it can be recovered for later reuse. The Dragon capsule, meanwhile, will continue on to the station, where it is scheduled to arrive on Saturday (June 5) at 5 a.m. EDT (0900 GMT). 

Currently, weather forecasts predict a 60% chance of good launch conditions for SpaceX, with the threat of rain showers posing the main concern. Similar conditions are expected on Friday, a backup launch day for SpaceX, according to weather officials. Still, a 60% chance is encouraging. 

"I do think that there's still a better than average chance that we'll be able to thread the needle and get in a good opportunity for tomorrow," said launch weather officer Mark Burger of the 45th Weather Squadron at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in the briefing.

SpaceX is one of two companies (Northrop Grumman is the other) with multi-billion-dollar contracts with NASA to fly uncrewed cargo resupply missions to the International Space Station. 

SpaceX also uses a Crew Dragon version of its spacecraft to fly astronauts to the station for NASA. The company's most recent mission, Crew-2, ferried four astronauts to the orbiting lab last month. Boeing also has a NASA crew contract, but has yet to launch astronauts.

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Tariq Malik

Tariq is the Editor-in-Chief of and joined the team in 2001, first as an intern and staff writer, and later as an editor. He covers human spaceflight, exploration and space science, as well as skywatching and entertainment. He became's Managing Editor in 2009 and Editor-in-Chief in 2019. Before joining, Tariq was a staff reporter for The Los Angeles Times covering education and city beats in La Habra, Fullerton and Huntington Beach. In October 2022, Tariq received the Harry Kolcum Award for excellence in space reporting from the National Space Club Florida Committee. He is also an Eagle Scout (yes, he has the Space Exploration merit badge) and went to Space Camp four times as a kid and a fifth time as an adult. He has journalism degrees from the University of Southern California and New York University. You can find Tariq at and as the co-host to the This Week In Space podcast with space historian Rod Pyle on the TWiT network. To see his latest project, you can follow Tariq on Twitter @tariqjmalik.