On Thursday Feb. 14, NASA confirmed that the date for the next SpaceX resupply mission to the International Space Station will launch Friday, March 1 in SpaceX's Dragon capsule.
The capsule was developed by SpaceX under NASA's Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program, which developed the first commercial vehicle that attached to the ISS and completed its first resupply mission in October 2012.
NASA also announced that it would be inviting 50 social media users to the launch, all of whom will have the same access as journalists covering the event, SocialTech reports. The space agency has been using this program to greatly expand its social media presence.
The capsule is set to dock on March 2, bringing 1,200 pounds of supplies for the crew and for experiments on board the ISS. The Dragon will also be bringing back samples and results from other experiments conducted in space, a capability that NASA has been sorely missing since the retirement of the space shuttle.
Dragon has three main components: the nosecone, which protects the capsule during blastoff; the spacecraft, which the crew and pressurized cargo occupy; plus a "service section" that contains avionics, the RCS system, parachutes and other support infrastructure; and the trunk, which contains the unpressurized cargo in addition to solar arrays and thermal radiators.
Expedition 34 is the current ongoing long-term project on board the ISS. It began on Nov. 18, 2012, when the crew of Expedition 33 returned in the Soyuz TMA-05M. The current team is commanded by Kevin Ford, who is on his second spaceflight. Oleg Novitskiy, Evgeny Tarelkin and Roman Romanenko represent the Russian Federal Space Agency (RSA); Thomas Marshburn is a spaceflight engineer with NASA and Chris Hadfield represents the Canadian Space Agency (CSA). Hadfield periodically updates his social media accounts on Tumblr and Twitter with photos from space.
Space Exploration Technologies is a commercial rocket and spaceflight firm headed by Elon Musk, who also owns Tesla Motors and has recently made headlines for his response to John Broder's review of the Tesla Model S in the New York Times.