It is atypical for SpaceX to make an ocean landing after flying to the ISS. [1
9659004] SpaceX, however, is trying something new for this mission. After the Falcon 9 has fallen into orbit from the Dragon's Pod, the upper portion of the missile remains in space for longer than usual and performs a six-hour coastal drive. According to Jessica Jensen, SpaceX's Dragon Mission Management Director, this is a "thermal demonstration" SpaceX is undertaking for some of its other customers. "I can not say too many details about it," she said during a pre-launch press conference, adding that the maneuver was "longer demonstration missions that we have to fly in the future."
] That's why SpaceX needs to burn extra propellant on the way up, which means the Falcon 9 will not have that much propellant left to drive back to the landing pad. A seaside landing will be enough.
If the launch is as planned today, the SpaceX Dragon capsule will meet the International Space Station on Saturday, December 7th. It will bring numerous scientific experiments to the ISS, including one that examines how flames spread in a small space. Dragon also carries the first small-scale satellite developed in Mexico, developed by students in Mexico to demonstrate satellite communications capabilities in orbit. Dragon will stay on the ISS for about a month before returning to Earth with 3,800 pounds of cargo and scientific samples. "When it comes back, samples will be returned that represent about 54 examinations," said Bryan Dansberry, assistant to the International Space Station's science bureau, during the press conference, a busy traffic month for the ISS. After SpaceX has reached the station, a Russian cargo ship will be launched to the ISS on December 6th. On 19 December, Boeing will bring its new passenger spaceship, the CST-100 Starliner, to the ISS for the first time. There will not be any astronauts aboard, but the spaceship will go through all the things it's supposed to do on future flights: trying to dock at the station, staying four to five days on board, and then the dangerous journey back to Earth to compete (hopefully in one piece). If all goes well, it should pave the way for Boeing's next major flight with the Starliner next year, which will bring its first passengers to the ISS.
This launch will boost a busy traffic month for the ISS.
] SpaceX also has a few busy months ahead of it. The company is expected to launch a communications satellite in mid-December, followed by another launch of its Starlink satellites, possibly by the end of the month. SpaceX is also poised to conduct a test flight with its own passenger spacecraft, the Crew Dragon, to demonstrate the capabilities of the vehicle's escape system. This flight could take place this month or early January.
But first, today's start must begin. The launch is scheduled for 12:51 (CET) at the launch site of SpaceX at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. SpaceX uses a brand new Falcon 9 for this job, even though the spacecraft's Dragon capsule has already flown twice. The landing attempt on the Falcon 9 takes place about eight minutes after the start. So far the weather looks a bit difficult. There is a 90 percent chance that the conditions are favorable, although winds high above the launch site could be a problem and reach up to 120 knots.
Both NASA and SpaceX will provide live coverage. NASA launches at 12.30pm (CET) and the SpaceX mission starts about 15 minutes before takeoff. Check back then if the Falcon 9 can overcome these fast winds at higher altitudes.