Resupply mission to ferry a meteor shower camera to the ISS

There's a lot at stake with Falcon 9's June 28th launch. SpaceX plans to use the opportunity to test if its rocket can successfully land on a barge, and the ISS crew needs all the supplies Dragon is carrying, including a camera designed to watch meteor showers from inside the station. The device aboard the capsule was actually a backup of the original meteor camera that blew up along with Orbital Sciences' Antares rocket in 2014. Its creators had to replace some of its cables and hard drives, and it had to be tested thoroughly, but now it's ready to take its place in the station's Window Observational Research Facility (WORF).

The camera will sit behind a large window that's designed especially for the niche and won't have any effect on image quality. It's programmed to record recurring major meteor showers in the next two years, though it can also detect unpredicted ones, so long as the window's protective cover is up. See, the original camera was supposed to come bundled with a shutter actuator system that would have given the ground team control over that cover. Now, the astronauts would have to remove the window shield or place it back manually in between their other tasks. It's not ideal, since they might be asleep or too busy to lift the covering when the ISS comes across a surprise shower, but they have no other choice.

The ISS crew hopes to have the device up and running in August just in time for the Perseids, which astronaut Ron Garan captured in the picture above back in 2011. More importantly, the scientists are hoping the camera can help them figure out how meteors continue to affect the Earth and how to protect future spacecraft from colliding with ever increasing space debris. By the way, NASA decided on a camera that works indoors, so that it can remain protected from the harsh conditions of outer space. Michael Fortenberry, the meteor camera's team lead, admitted that they might "not get as much time to take images" without the window actuator, but promised to "still get really good science."

[Image credit: NASA]