SpaceX’s 16th Commercial Resupply Services mission successfully blasted off Wednesday carrying 5,600 pounds of supplies to the International Space Station.

The company’s Dragon spacecraft lifted off at 1:16 p.m. EST on a Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. On its way to the space station, it’s loaded with research equipment, cargo and supplies that will support the crew, station maintenance and dozens of the more than 250 investigations aboard the space station.

“It was an incredible launch,” said Joel Montalbano, deputy ISS program manager, NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. “This was the fourth launch in three weeks to the space station.”

After a successful climb into space, the Dragon spacecraft now is in orbit with its solar arrays deployed and drawing power.

“This is a great day. We had a beautiful launch.” said Hans Koenigsmann, vice president of Build and Flight Reliability at SpaceX.

The Dragon spacecraft will deliver science, supplies and hardware to the orbiting laboratory. Science experiments include the Robotic Refueling Mission 3 (RRM3) and the Global Ecosystem Dynamics Investigation (GEDI).

The two-stage Falcon 9 launch vehicle lifts off Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station carrying the SpaceX’s Dragon resupply spacecraft to the International Space Station. Liftoff was at 1:16 p.m. EST, Dec. 5, 2018. On its 16th commercial resupply services mission to the space station,

The Global Ecosystem Dynamics Investigation (GEDI) will provide high-quality laser ranging observations of the Earth’s forests and topography required to advance the understanding of important carbon and water cycling processes, biodiversity, and habitat. GEDI will be mounted on the Japanese Experiment Module’s Exposed Facility and provide the first high-resolution observations of forest vertical structure at a global scale. These observations will quantify the aboveground carbon stored in vegetation and changes that result from vegetation disturbance and recovery, the potential for forests to sequester carbon in the future, and habitat structure and its influence on habitat quality and biodiversity.

A small satellite deployment mechanism, called SlingShot, will be ride up in Dragon and then be installed in a Northrop Grumman Cygnus spacecraft prior to its departure from the space station. SlingShot can accommodate as many as 18 CubeSats of any format. After the Cygnus cargo ship departs from station, the spacecraft navigates to an altitude of 280 to 310 miles (an orbit higher than that of the space station) to deploy the satellites.

Robotic Refueling Mission-3 (RRM3) will demonstrate the first transfer and long-term storage of liquid methane, a cryogenic fluid, in microgravity. The ability to replenish and store cryogenic fluids, which can function as a fuel or coolant, will help enable long duration journeys to destinations, such as the Moon and Mars.

The two-stage Falcon 9 launch vehicle lifts off Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station carrying the SpaceX’s Dragon resupply spacecraft to the International Space Station. Liftoff was at 1:16 p.m. EST, Dec. 5, 2018. On its 16th commercial resupply services mission to the space station, Dragon will deliver several science investigations to the space station, including the Global Ecosystem Dynamics Investigation lidar (GEDI). GEDI will provide high-quality laser ranging observations of the Earth’s forests and topography required to advance the understanding of important carbon and water cycling processes, biodiversity and habitat.

Growth of Large, Perfect Protein Crystals for Neutron Crystallography (Perfect Crystals) crystallizes an antioxidant protein found inside the human body to analyze its shape. This research may shed light on how the protein helps protect the human body from ionizing radiation and oxidants created as a byproduct of metabolism. For best results, analysis requires large crystals with minimal imperfections, which are more easily produced in the microgravity environment of the space station.

Expedition 57 Commander Alexander Gerst of ESA (European Space Agency) and Flight Engineer Serena Auñón-Chancellor of NASA will use the space station’s robotic arm to capture Dragon when it arrives two days later. NASA astronaut Anne McClain will monitor telemetry during the spacecraft’s approach.

Live coverage of the rendezvous and capture will air on NASA Television and the agency’s website beginning at 4:30 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 8, with installation coverage set to begin at 7:30 a.m.

Dragon is scheduled to depart the station in January 2019 and return to Earth with more than 4,000 pounds of research, hardware and crew supplies.

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