'Floating Brain' Headed to ISS on SpaceX Cargo Run

SpaceX launch live stream: How to watch the NASA-ISS cargo mission blast off online

The spacecraft, packed with almost 2,700 kg of scientific gear, supplies and vehicle hardware, was lifted off at 5:42 a.m. local time (0942 GMT) from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Dragon separated from Falcon 9s second stage about nine minutes and thirty seconds after liftoff and is on its way to the International Space Station, now expected to arrive early on the morning of July 2nd.

Today's launch marks SpaceX's 15th cargo flight to the ISS.

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Falcon 9 carries the Latching End Effector, which allows astronauts to grapple payloads, capture vehicles, connect to different points on the space station, as well as establish power, data, and video connections.

The first AI robot "crew member" named as CIMON (Crew Interactive Mobile Companion) launched on Friday. The robot can even assess the moods of its human crewmates and interact with them accordingly.

CIMON has been trained to recognise the voice and face of Alexander Gerst, 42, a geophysicist with the European Space Agency.

It is also created to interpret his emotional state. Already savvy about Gerst's science experiments, the self-propelling Cimon will float at the astronaut's side and help, when asked, with research procedures.

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Astronauts repaired the arm's current hand - which was growing arthritic after 17 years of use - during a series of spacewalks in recent months.

Faclon 9 also bears an earth science instrument called ECOsystem Spaceborne Thermal Radiometer Experiment on Space Station (ECOSTRESS) to measure and check how plants respond to the water availability in the outer space.

SpaceX won't retrieve the booster for another flight because it is switching to a new model.

Unlike previous Falcon 9 iterations, Block 5 is made to last for a long time.

Because it's perfectly round - a little bigger than a basketball - it's also safer, with no sharp edges that could damage space station equipment or poke astronauts.

The plan is to launch the first stage 10 times without needing any refurbishment - just some minimal inspection before returning the rocket to the launchpad.

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