SpaceX has officially become an old pro at sending cargo to the International Space Station. It will attempt to add to its resume of successful Dragon spacecraft journeys with CRS-18, its 18th commercial resupply mission. Dragon was originally scheduled to launch on Wednesday, but bad weather delayed the attempt.
A backup launch opportunity is already set for Thursday at 3:01 p.m. PT (6:01 p.m. ET). NASA will broadcast the Falcon 9 rocket launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida live on NASA TV and SpaceX will also provide a webcast.
The weather forecast wasn't good for Wednesday and issues could linger into Thursday. US Air Force meteorologists originally predicted just a 30% chance of favorable weather. "Primary weather concerns are cumulus clouds and their associated anvil clouds, as well as lightning," NASA said on Monday.
SpaceX will attempt to recover the Falcon 9 first stage by bringing it back for a ground landing at Cape Canaveral.
The CRS-18 Dragon spacecraft looks a little different than previous ones. It will launch sporting an Apollo 50th anniversary logo near the side hatch to commemorate the 1969 moon landing.
This particular Dragon capsule has already traveled to the ISS twice, so it has two space station logos on the other side of the hatch.
Dragon is also outfitted with four ceramic heat shield tiles that are being tested for use on the under-development Starship, SpaceX's next-gen spacecraft.
The cargo mission is stuffed full of gear, supplies and experiments. Notably, it carries the International Docking Adapter-3, which will attach to the ISS to allow future NASA Commercial Crew Program spacecraft to dock autonomously. SpaceX and its Crew Dragon vehicle is part of that program, which aims to once again launch astronauts to space from US soil.
Dragon will spend about four weeks docked to the ISS before returning to Earth. SpaceX is contracted to resupply the space station through 2024. The CRS-18 mission may be business as usual, but a rocket launch is always a majestic sight.