Florida – SpaceX will launch its Falcon 9 rocket for the fifth time in its history tonight. It will land on the International Space Station carrying supplies. This is the second time the SpaceX team tries to deliver docking rings to the ISS, and if they are successful, it could pave the way for commercial space flights.

The CRS-9 Dragon Mission is scheduled for July 18, 2016, and it will launch from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The company is going to live-stream the whole process, so depending on the results, people will see history in the making or another expensive failed attempt. On June 28, 2015, the company gave it the first shot. However, the SpX-7, one of the company’s rocket, disintegrated two minutes after its launch from Cape Canaveral. In spite of this incident, SpaceX’s Falcon 9 launch vehicles have been able to deliver supplies the ISS several times in the past, so the expectations for Monday are very high.

SpaceX Falcon 9 landing at a drone ship at the sea. Credit: The Verge

The Falcon 9 has two parts or stages, and they are both powered by nine rocket engines that burn liquid oxygen and rocket-grade kerosene. Two minutes after the launch, the two vehicles are supposed to separate from each other. The first stage returns to the ground where the company recovers it to be used again in the future and the second stage delivers the cargo which in this case is the “Dragon Capsule”, also designed by SpaceX. NASA saw great potential in this combination and bestowed the company with the Commercial Resupply Services contract in 2008.

The success of Monday’s mission would have huge implications

A lot has changed since 2008, and Elon Musk’s company is going to use a bettered version of its rocket called Falcon 9 Full Thrust. SpaceX wants to be the first private commercial company to take NASA astronauts to the International Space Station, and if the mission is successful it would be a step closer from getting its human-rated certification.

Moreover, the space flight organization will also test a new method of landing. Usually, the first re-usable stage lands on a landing pat in the ocean, however, they will try to land it on a ground base this time. Landing on the ground could be a little more expensive because more fuel is needed to soften the grounding, but doing it on a drone ship in the ocean is much more challenging.

The delivery of the cargo is also extremely important this time. The Dragon capsule will carry 5000 pounds of supply consisting of equipment, food and other miscellaneous along with a docking ring developed by Boeing Co and SpaceX.

Once there, the technicians at the ISS would attach the rings to one of the berthing ports of the station creating a parking space for commercial spaceships. NASA confirmed a second docking ring would be sent in 2017 before the manned missions start happening.

The future of real commercial space flights

Only the Russian Space Agency currently provides private trips to the orbit, but saying they are expensive would be a massive understatement. The list of people that have hired the Russian services is very exclusive, and people like Gregory Olsen, Dennis Tito, and Anousheh Ansari have paid an estimate of $20 to $40 million.

In contrast, SpaceX is focused on one thing, making space flights cheap enough for them to become commercial. In 2012, the company made history becoming the first commercial company to reach the ISS with the Falcon 9. This program was originally designed to carry humans into space, and the company is working very hard to get the approval from NASA.

The team at SpaceX has a busy year. Later this year, the company is going to launch the Falcon Heavy, one of the most powerful and ambitious projects in history. This monster is 70m tall and weighs 3,125,735 lb. According to the company’s website, Falcon Heavy can deliver twice the payload of the Delta IV Heavy, one of the most powerful rockets in use, at a third of the cost.

The ultimate objective of this spacecraft is to take humans to Mars. It sounds a like a little too much, but the first stage of the rocket is composed of 3 Falcon 9 engines for a total of 27 Merlin engines which can generate more than 5 million pounds of thrust.

“Falcon Heavy was designed from the outset to carry humans into space and restores the possibility of flying missions with crew to the Moon or Mars,” reads SpaceX’s website.

People who want to watch the CRS-9 Dragon Mission launch tonight can go to the company’s website. The live stream will start in about an hour and twenty minutes.

Source: SpaceX