A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launches its Cargo Dragon spacecraft on NASA's CRS-29 mission to the International Space Station at 8:28 p.m. from Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on November 9, 2023. Photo by Joe Marino/UPI | License Photo
Nov. 10 (UPI) -- An unmanned SpaceX cargo ship is scheduled to dock with the International Space Station early Saturday as part of a robotic resupply mission.
The CRS-29 Dragon spacecraft, carrying 6,500 pounds of high-tech supplies and experimental hardware, is set to rendezvous with the orbiting station around 5:20 a.m. EST, according to NASA, which plans to livestream the event.
The Dragon, which launched Thursday night from Kennedy Space Center in Florida, is also carrying food for the crew aboard the space station, including traditional Thanksgiving dishes for the upcoming holiday.
The freighter craft will spend about a month hitched to the station before returning to Earth with nearly 4,000 pounds of cargo, NASA said.
Aside from a minor technical delay that pushed the launch date back a few days, the mission has gone according to plan, with the ship delivering the cargo aboard the Falcon 9 rocket, and the first stage landing successfully back at Cape Canaveral after its second-ever flight.
The aim of the mission is to examine gravity waves -- disturbances in Earth's atmosphere similar to waves in a pond; and to test high-speed information exchanges in space as part of a laser communications study that began two years ago called ILLUMA-T.
The ILLUMA-T protocol will eventually be planted on the outside of the space station, orbiting at around 250 miles above the Earth, where it will establish communications with a Department of Defense satellite orbiting 22,000 miles farther out in space.
The resulting tandem will "create NASA's first two-way laser communications relay system," agency officials wrote in an overview of the mission.
"Laser communications can supplement the radio frequency systems that most space-based missions currently use to send data to and from Earth," NASA said. "The ILLUMA-T demonstration also paves the way for placing laser communications terminals on spacecraft orbiting the moon or Mars."