(Sen) - Student science is set to be part of the historic SpaceX launch. Experiments designed by students will be among the cargo delivered to the International Space Station by the SpaceX Dragon capsule. The 23 microgravity experiments have been designed by students taking part in the Student Spaceflight Experiment Program.
Lift off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station is scheduled for Sunday October 7. At the moment there is a 60 percent chance of favourable weather at the time of launch. There are also back up launch opportunities on October 8th and 9th.
The experiments represent more than 7000 students and 2000 design proposals that were submitted to a formal NASA review for a selection of flight experiments. They will study the effects of microgravity on physical, chemical and biological systems and will be completed by astronauts on board the International Space Station.
The deputy associate administrator for education at NASA Headquarters in Washington, Roosevelt Johnson says "this offers a unique flight opportunity that allows students to experience both the excitement and the challenges inherent in conducting research in a microgravity environment".
This will be the fourth time Student Spaceflight Experiment Program experiments have been taken into space. The final Atlantis and Endeavour space shuttle missions also took student payloads as well as Dragon's demonstration mission in May. A fifth set of experiments will be launched in 2013.
The idea is to inspire students, Roosevelt Johnson adds "It really is STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) in action, using the International Space Station - which has America's only orbiting National Laboratory - to host these students' science experiments."
The launch of the Dragon spacecraft on SpaceX's Falcon 9 Rocket will be the first of 12 contracted flights to resupply the International Space Station as part of NASA's Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) contract, awarded in 2008.
The mission, called CRS-1, follows the successful test flight to the space station by Dragon in May this year when it became the first commercial spacecraft to berth with the orbiting complex, demonstrating its ability to deliver cargo safely. Following that NASA's Administrator Charles Bolden announced in August that SpaceX had completed its Space Act Agreement under NASA's Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) Program. This meant it was certified to deliver supplies to the space station.
Technicians attach the Dragon capsule to a Falcon 9 rocket at the SpaceX facility at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station during preparations for the CRS-1 mission. Credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett
SpaceX was founded in 2002 by the entrepreneur Elon Musk. In 2010 they became the first company to send a spacecraft into orbit and return it safely to Earth. SpaceX also have plans for the Falcon Heavy rocket, which will be the most powerful rocket in the world second only to the Saturn V, used for the Apollo missions.
The Falcon 9 will launch from Space Launch Complex 40 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Among those watching the launch will be 100 students and teachers involved in the science payload.