Photos: Upgraded Dragon cargo capsule rolls out to pad 39A

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Ready for a flight to the International Space Station, SpaceX’s first upgraded Dragon cargo capsule rolled out to pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida this week in preparation for launch on top of a Falcon 9 rocket.

The second-generation Dragon supply ship is based on SpaceX’s Crew Dragon vehicle designed to fly with astronauts. On the cargo capsule, removed the crew-rated ship’s launch abort system and replaced the vehicle’s touchscreen displays and seats with racks and freezers to hold supplies and experiments.

The Cargo Dragon capsule is set to ride a 215-foot-tall (65-meter) Falcon 9 rocket into orbit at 11:39 a.m. EST (1639 GMT) Saturday on SpaceX’s 21st resupply flight to the space station. It will be the first cargo mission under a fresh contract between NASA and SpaceX.

The spacecraft is loaded with about three tons of equipment and research hardware, including a new commercial airlock developed by Nanoracks for attachment to the space station.

These photos show the Falcon 9 and Cargo Dragon emerging from SpaceX’s hangar at pad 39A and rolling up the ramp to the pad deck. The launcher rode a transporter-erector for the quarter-mile trip to pad 39A, where hydraulics lifted the Falcon 9 vertical for final cargo loading and launch preparations.

The Falcon 9 booster on this mission is making its fourth flight into space, while the Cargo Dragon vehicle is brand new. The upgraded Dragon cargo capsules can be reused up to five times, according to SpaceX.

Read more details in our story previewing the mission.

Credit: SpaceX
Credit: SpaceX
Credit: SpaceX
Credit: SpaceX
Credit: SpaceX
Credit: SpaceX

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