A Rodent Problem has Delayed SpaceX’s Next Resupply Mission Until Tomorrow

A rodent problem has caused SpaceX’s next resupply mission to the International Space Station to be postponed until tomorrow (Dec. 5).

Technicians were preparing a mouse experiment for loading onto SpaceX’s robotic Dragon cargo capsule yesterday (Dec. 3) when they realized there was mould on some of the rodents’ food bars, according to NASA officials in a pre-launch news conference.

The Dragon spacecraft was slated for liftoff atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket this afternoon (Dec. 4) from Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. However, the food could not be replaced in time to meet that target, said NASA officials in a statement made last night. So, mission planners are now hoping to launch tomorrow at 1:16 p.m. EST (1816 GMT).

Once the mission is ready to go, you can watch it live on Space.com thanks to NASA. Luckily, there is only a 10 percent chance that bad weather will hinder Wednesday’s liftoff, as per launch weather officer Clay Flynn of the U.S. Air Force’s 45th Space Wing during yesterday’s briefing.

Forty mice are part of the experiment called Rodent Research-8 (RR-8). The project is aimed at helping researchers examine the mechanisms behind ageing and age-related diseases.

In a description of the study, RR-8 team members wrote that responses to spaceflight in humans and model organisms like mice are similar to certain aspects of accelerated ageing. This investigation offers a deeper understanding of age-related immune, bone, and muscle disease processes, which could result in new therapies for use in space and on Earth.

RR-8 is among many payloads on board the Dragon for delivery to the ISS. Other scientific equipment includes the Robotic Refueling Mission 3, a technology demonstration designed to help break ground for in-space satellite servicing, and the Global Ecosystem Dynamics Investigation, a tool that will gauge forest-canopy height globally.

What’s more, Dragon will carry tons of food, spare parts, and other supplies to the station. The capsule is packed with over 5,600 lbs. (2,540 kilograms) of stuff in total, according to NASA officials.

This Dragon capsule has already accomplished one other International Space Station (ISS) mission. It launched toward the orbiting lab in February 2017. That was the 10th ISS resupply flight SpaceX performed under its contract with NASA. Wednesday’s launch will begin mission number 16.

These re-flights are a top priority for SpaceX. The company sees rapid and repeated reuse as a crucial breakthrough that will cut the cost of spaceflight drastically. The company has re-flown Falcon 9 first stages many times and made history on December 3rd, 2018 when it launched a rocket with an early stage that had already flown two orbital missions. (The Falcon 9 that will launch Dragon tomorrow is brand-new, however.)

It will take two days for the Dragon to arrive at the ISS, and it will stay docked to the orbiting lab for over one month. The capsule is set to return to Earth for a parachute-aided ocean splashdown in mid-January.

Although, the Dragon is delayed an Arianespace Ariane 5 rocket is slated to launch a communications satellite and a weather satellite from Kourou, French Guiana, at 3:37 p.m. EST (2037 GMT) today. You can also watch it live on Space.com


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