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SpaceX launches space station docking port


Washington, July 18 (IANS) Instruments to perform the first-ever DNA sequencing in space, and the first international docking adapter for commercial spacecraft, were among the almost 2,300 kgs of cargo that American aerospace manufacturer, SpaceX launched to the International Space Station on Monday.

SpaceX’s Dragon cargo craft was successfully launched at 10.15 a.m (India time) on a Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

"With equipment to enable novel experiments never attempted before in space, and an international docking adapter vital to the future of US commercial crew spacecraft, we’re thrilled this Dragon has successfully taken flight,” said Kirk Shireman, NASA’s International Space Station programme manager.

The spacecraft will be grappled to the space station on Wednesday by NASA astronaut Jeff Williams, supported by NASA astronaut Kate Rubins.

"Each commercial resupply flight to the space station is a significant event. Everything, from the science to the spare hardware and crew supplies, is vital for sustaining our mission,” Shireman said.

DNA testing aboard the space station typically requires collecting samples and returning them to Earth.

The Biomolecule Sequencer seeks to demonstrate, for the first time, that DNA sequencing is feasible in microgravity using a crew-operated, miniaturised device to identify microbes, diagnose diseases, monitor crew health and possibly help detect DNA-based life off the Earth.

The first international docking adapters in the cargo will allow US commercial spacecraft to dock to the station when transporting American astronauts in the near future.

Its first users were expected to be the Boeing Starliner and SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft, which are now in development in partnership with the US space agency NASA’s Commercial Crew Programme and is expected to begin test flights in 2017 and 2018.

The adapter, a metallic ring big enough for astronauts to fit through, also represents the first on-orbit element built to the docking measurements that are standardised for all the spacecraft builders across the world, which means other spacecraft will also be able to dock there in the future, NASA said.

SpaceX tried to deliver one international docking adapter last year, but the equipment was destroyed during a launch accident.

The current mission is the company’s ninth cargo flight to the station under NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services contract.

Dragon’s cargo will support dozens of the more than 250 science and research investigations during the station’s Expeditions 48 and 49.

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