A spacecraft whose payload includes Belgian technology was launched on Thursday on a Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral in the U.S. state of Florida, after being postponed for a day due to bad weather.
The SpaceX Dragon cargo capsule had already been sent twice into space, recovered from the Atlantic, refurbished by SpaceX and re-used.
The first-stage rocket booster of the brand-new Falcon 9 used in Thursday’s launch was recovered, while the spent-rocket component landed on SpaceX’s floating drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean.
The cargo spacecraft contains close to three tons of payload destined for the International Space Station (ISS), including Belgian technology and scientific research.
Its cargo includes a QubeSat for Aerothermodynamic Research and Measurements on AblatioN, QARMAN, a standardised nanosatellite developed by the Von Karman Institute for Fluid Dynamics, VKI, based in Sint-Genesius-Rode, Belgium.
The QARMAN, financed by the European Space Agency (ESA), is the world’s first QubeSat designed to survive an entry into the atmosphere before returning to Earth in many months. The QARMAN will itself detect the return phase and send home data before the planned crash.
For their part, scientists from the Mol Nuclear Energy Research Centre, SCK-CEN, and the University of Namur sent rotifers to the ISS on board the spacecraft. Among other things, these small organisms have great tolerance for radiation. Researchers at the ISS will study this particular characteristic so as to improve astronauts’ resistance to radiation, which is 150 times higher in Space than on Earth and thus makes the body’s cells age 20 times faster.
This study will also contribute to research on the use of radiation therapy in treating cancer patients.
The cargo is scheduled to arrive at the ISS on Sunday at about 12:00 PM, Belgian time.