A SpaceX Dragon spacecraft carrying nearly 6,000 pound of research equipment, cargo and supplies has successfully launched to the International Space Station (ISS), NASA said on Thursday. The spacecraft, on its 16th mission for NASA under the agency's Commercial Resupply Services contract, lifted off to the ISS at 1.16 p.m. EST on Wednesday on a Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
It is carrying experiments in forest observation, protein crystal growth and in-space fuel transfer demonstration and supplies that will support the crew, station maintenance and dozens of the more than 250 investigations aboard the space station, NASA said in a statement.
European Space Agency's Alexander Gerst and NASA's Serena Aunon -- who are already aboard the ISS -- will use the space station's robotic arm to capture the Dragon when it arrives two days later.
Astronaut Anne McClain, also from NASA, will monitor telemetry during the spacecraft's approach.
"It was an incredible launch," Joel Montalbano, deputy ISS Programme Manager, NASA's Johnson Space Centre in Houston, wrote in a blog post on Wednesday. "This was the fourth launch in three weeks to the space station."
Besides delivering supplies and hardwares, the Dragon will also deliver science experiments including the Robotic Refuelling Mission 3 (RRM3) and the Global Ecosystem Dynamics Investigation (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.
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 the Mars.
Another is a small satellite deployment mechanism, called SlingShot that can accommodate as many as 18 CubeSats of any format.
Dragon is scheduled to depart from the station in January 2019 and return to Earth with more than 4,000 pounds of research, hardware and crew supplies, NASA said.