A Look at What Was Lost in Falcon 9 Failure

International Docking Adapter. (Credit: NASA)
International Docking Adapter. (Credit: NASA)

A description of what was on board the Dragon supply ship from the CRS-7 Mission Press Kit.


The Dragon spacecraft will be filled with more than 4,000 pounds of supplies and payloads, including critical materials to support more than 30 student research investigations and more than 35 of approximately 250 science and research investigations that will occur during Expeditions 44 and 45. Science payloads will offer new insight to combustion in microgravity, perform the first space-based observations of meteors entering Earth’s atmosphere, continue solving potential crew health risks, and make new strides toward being able to grow food in space.

Dragon’s mission will support important science and research investigations on the orbiting laboratory. Science payloads being delivered will offer new insight to combustion in microgravity, perform the first space-based observations of meteors entering Earth’s atmosphere, continue solving potential crew health risks, and make new strides towards being able to grow food in space.

Investigations continue to support astronaut Scott Kelly’s extended mission of one year in space, the latest step in the International Space Station’s role as a platform for preparing humanity for exploration into deeper space. Scientists and researchers will gain valuable data about the effects of microgravity during long-duration spaceflight on bone density, muscle mass, strength, vision and other aspects of human physiology.

A study preparing for future long-duration space missions uses the Veggie plant growth facility to cultivate a type of cabbage that is harvested in orbit with samples returned to Earth for testing. Organisms grow differently in space, from single-celled bacteria to plants and humans, and understanding how plants respond to microgravity is an important step toward enabling crew members to grow their own food on future missions.

The mission also will use Dragon’s unpressurized trunk to deliver the first of two International Docking Adapters to enable future commercial crew spacecraft, including the SpaceX Crew Dragon, to dock to the station.

After more than five weeks at the space station, the spacecraft will return with more than 1,400 pounds of cargo, including crew supplies, hardware and computer resources, science experiments, space station hardware, and trash.

CASIS Payloads
Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (U.S. National Laboratory) Sponsored Payloads

CASIS is the manager of the U.S. National Laboratory on the International Space Station. Tasked by NASA and Congress, CASIS is committed to brokering research capable of benefitting life on Earth. Additionally, one of the core missions of CASIS is to inspire a new era of scientists and engineers by leveraging the ISS as a unique learning platform. The projects below highlight many of the projects onboard the SpaceX Dragon capsule for CRS-7.

Project Meteor
Michael Fortenbary, Southwest Research Institute

This project will launch a visible spectroscopy instrument for meteor observations. Project Meteor will enable monitoring of meteor interaction with the Earth’s atmosphere without the interference of ozone absorption. The resultant data will be the first measurement of meteor flux and will allow for remote monitoring of carbon-based compounds in the meteor. Investigation of meteor elemental composition is important to our understanding of the origin and evolution of planets in our solar system.

Microchannel Diffusion
Alessandro Grattoni, Ph.D., Houston Methodist Research Institute

This investigation will examine the mechanisms of chemical transport across nanochannel membranes developed for the delivery of biologically active molecules and nanoparticles as drugs from implants inside the body. This study examines fundamental transport phenomena in a microgravity environment to better understand how to fine tune drug delivery and dosage.

National Design Challenge

CASIS has developed a science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education initiative titled the National Design Challenge (NDC), intended to further CASIS efforts in encouraging students to become more excited about science. Two Houston, TX schools and three Denver area schools will be sending seven total investigations to the ISS National Lab:

Bell Middle School from Golden, CO will evaluate if vermicomposting in a closed system has the same efficiency in microgravity as it does on Earth.

Chatfield Senior High School, Littleton, CO hopes to establish the viability of algal hydrogen production in space. In specific, the students hope to show that if algae are removed from the gravitational influence of Earth, it will still produce hydrogen in a sulfur deprived environment.

Centaurus High School, Lafayette, CO will study the Effects of Simulated Gravity on Bacterial Lag Phase in a Micro-Gravitational Environment.

Awty International School (Houston, TX) and teacher Angela Glidewell’s eighth-grade class will evaluate how cosmic radiation poses a serious threat to humans as they continue to inhabit the ISS. The goal is to investigate the feasibility of using Boron-enhanced high-density polyethylene material for shielding against galactic cosmic radiation and solar particle events.

Also at Awty International School, teacher Jessika Smith’s fifth-grade class is interested in determining whether yeast cells produce more carbon dioxide in microgravity than on Earth. Through this inquiry, the students hope to help engineers optimize life support systems for spacecraft and understand how yeast cells can be grown in space for medical research.

Duchesne Academy and teacher Kathy Duquesney’s eighth-grade class will evaluate the effects of microgravity and light spectral quality (i.e., color of light) on plant growth in a CubeSat. This experiment is important for understanding how plants with high nutritional content can be grown on Earth in closed environments and on the ISS to support future long duration spaceflight.

Also from Duchesne Academy, Susan Knizner’s fourth-grade students will examine the effect of different wavelengths of light on algae oxygen production in microgravity. Specifically, they will examine how different light wavelengths affect the growth of algae, Chlorella vulgaris, in microgravity. The students will monitor the oxygen released through the process of photosynthesis to determine the optimal color of light for algae growth in microgravity.

  • DavidR2015

    I’m feeling relieved at the moment, that BEAM wasn’t on board this F9. Even so, its a pretty horrible loss for everyone involved.

  • Roncie Weatherington

    Press conference confirms that there are enough spare parts to build another LDA.

  • Roncie Weatherington

    This may mean a substantial delay in launching the BEAM, but I am fairly sure that Bigelow Aerospace has more than one BEAM.

  • Roncie Weatherington

    What experiments on this flight were also lost on the Antares launch explosion?
    Double whammy!

  • Hug Doug

    The student experiments and water purification filters have been specifically mentioned. Not sure about anything else that might have been “twice lost” now.

  • Arthur Hamilton

    Well Boeing should’ve built an extra one for just in case.

  • Arthur Hamilton

    How long do you think it will be before SpaceX launches again. I mean, the launch pad suffered no damage. anyone??

  • Roncie Weatherington

    The pad should be in a typical condition following a successful launch as there was no anomaly anywhere close to the pad.
    I have read several reports that SpaceX has had an on-going issue with seams in the dome of the 2nd stage LOX tank, and in fact, may have dodge bullets on previous flights.
    IF the over pressure, as Elon tweeted, is the cause of today’s event, then it is doubtful that even good seams could have prevented the rupture.
    A look at the videos shows what appears to be excessive venting several seconds prior to failure.
    No matter what the cause, the down time should give SpaceX time to properly fix the seam issue.
    How long? Nobody knows at this point, but because all the hardware is made in-house, SpaceX should be able to find and fix the cause fairly rapidly.
    They did, after all, have over 3,000 different streams of data coming from the rocket, according to Gwen.

  • DavidR2015

    There were some school children’s experiments that appear to have been “twice lost”. Emotionally significant, even if not strategically important.

  • DavidR2015

    Based on the fact that when they have had problems with landing, they have been able to identify the problem and implement a fix on the following flight, typically around a month later, I would think that the total elapsed time for Spacex to find and fix the root cause fault is probably only a couple of months. We need to consider that outside agencies, customers etc eg. NASA, FAA, USAF, could add effort to the investigation by requiring paperwork to be done or by asking lots of questions.
    I would guess that Spacex could be back flying in 3 – 6 months. Maybe even Dragon will fly CRS 8 before the Orbital Cygnus mission in December, although that may only be possible if NASA deems it necessary to fly that cargo mission in that timeframe.
    The next flight was due to be the Jason 3 launch from Vandenburg around August 8th or 9th. I would guess that moves to October / November timeframe, but we’ll have to wait and see.