After leaving the 39A Launch Complex at the Kennedy Space Center, not far from the giant garage where the Saturn V was mounted and where SpaceX rockets also take shape, the journey from the Dragon capsule to the International Space Station will take 19 hours. But the adventure still begins with your feet firmly on the ground, 45 minutes before launch. Here's how it will happen:
Forty-five minutes before takeoff, SpaceX's launch director checks the projection load, the chemical energy source that propels the rocket and a great initial speed.
Forty-two minutes before take-off, the crew's access arm is retracted, a metallic piece that allows astronauts to enter the Dragon spacecraft. It is all white and regularly disinfected to avoid contamination in the moments before the mission leaves – and it was like that before the pandemic.
Thirty-seven minutes before take-off, the exhaust system at the launch of the Dragon is activated. This is the mechanism that will separate the Falcon 9 spacecraft in an emergency. It sits on top of the rocket, attached to the Dragon, and expels it away from Falcon 9 in the event of an explosion.
Thirty-five minutes before take-off, the supply of RP-1, a fuel used in rocket propulsion engines, begins. At the same time as this happens, the supply of liquid oxygen in the first stage of the rocket also begins, to oxidize the RP-1.
Sixteen minutes before take-off, the supply of liquid oxygen also begins in the second stage of the rocket.
Seven minutes before take-off, engine cooling begins. It is a step in which cryogenic fuels from RP-1 and liquid oxygen are used to control the engine temperature. This avoids thermal shocks that could damage engine materials.
One minute before take-off, the flight commander initiates pre-launch technical checks. At the same time, pressurization of the propulsion tank also begins.
Forty-five seconds before take-off, SpaceX's launch director checks that all conditions for launch are met.
Three seconds before take-off, the engine ignition sequence at the behest of the engine control unit begins, an electronic control module for internal combustion of the engine that ensures the optimum performance of these engine parts.
Fifty-eight seconds after takeoff, the Max Q condition is reached, the point of an ascension route through the atmosphere where the rocket is exposed to maximum mechanical pressure. It is a very critical phase to check the reliability of the rocket design.
Two minutes and 33 seconds after takeoff, the engines of the first stage of the rocket – nine Merlin engines – are shut down.
Two minutes and 36 seconds after takeoff, the first and second stages of the Falcon 9 split. The first stage is reusable and, a few minutes after the launch of the mission, it will return to the ground and land nose up on the platform “Of Course I Still Love You”, in the Atlantic Ocean.