SpaceX launch to ISS delayed by moldy mouse food

A Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft is scheduled to bring all sorts of science and supplies to orbit on Wednesday.

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Eric Mack
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Elon Musk's rocket company was set to pull off two launches from two different coasts within about 24 hours Tuesday, but the second launch had to be put off due to rotten rodent food. 


The 16th SpaceX cargo resupply mission to the International Space Station had been scheduled to blast off from Florida's Kennedy Space Center a day after the company successfully launched and landed a Falcon 9 rocket carrying 64 small satellites from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Monday's mission also marked the first time a single orbital-class rocket booster has been launched and recovered three times.

But the delay of the flight to the ISS had nothing to do with SpaceX's West Coast success.

"The launch was moved to Wednesday after mold was found on food bars for a rodent investigation prior to handover to SpaceX," NASA said in an email late Monday. "Teams will use the extra day to replace the food bars."

The food is for mice living on the space station that are part of NASA's Rodent Research program to investigate the physiology of aging. Researchers think the way humans and mice respond to spaceflight might resemble certain aspects of accelerated aging. 

"This investigation provides a better understanding of aging-related immune, bone, and muscle disease processes, which may lead to new therapies for use in space and on Earth," reads NASA's overview of the research program.

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The SpaceX Dragon spacecraft will be carrying all sorts of cargo besides rodent food to resupply the ISS. It will also deliver the Robotic Refueling Mission-3, which hopes to demonstrate the ability to store and transfer cryogenic fluids in space. The system could advance how propulsion and life support systems are sustained on future missions.

"This will help us with our goals of moving farther in to exploration, either to the Moon or to Mars," Kirt Costello, ISS program chief scientist, said during a teleconference Monday.

The Dragon will also carry the Global Ecosystem Dynamics Investigation, which will use laser technology to observe a number of aspects of Earth's forests, including "the first high-resolution observations of forest vertical structure at a global scale," according to a NASA release.

The new launch time is 1:16 p.m. ET Wednesday. Both NASA TV and SpaceX will livestream the launch. You can watch via the embedded feed below:

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