The 2017 Historic Flight of SpaceX’s Dragon Ship!

“For the first time in the history of commercial spaceflight, a used spacecraft has blasted off on a mission to deliver cargo to the International Space Station (ISS).” H. Weitering,

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with answer Key

The nine Merlin engines on the first stage of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket power the company’s Dragon cargo capsule toward orbit on June 3, 2017. Credit- SpaceX


Excerpt: SpaceX Successfully Launches Used Dragon Cargo Ship in Historic First, By Hanneke Weitering,

“After lightning strikes delayed the launch on Thursday (June 1), lingering storm clouds parted just enough for SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket to safely lift off from NASA’s historic Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida today (June 3).

The Falcon 9 rocket, topped with SpaceX’s first refurbished Dragon cargo craft, took to the skies at 5:07 p.m. EDT (2107 GMT). About 8 minutes after liftoff, the first-stage rocket booster returned to Earth to stick a landing at nearby Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. [Launch Photos: SpaceX’s 1st Reused Dragon Spacecraft]

A little over 10 minutes into the flight, the Dragon separated from the Falcon 9’s second stage, deployed its solar arrays and began its three-day trek to the ISS. On Monday (June 5), the spacecraft will dock at the space station’s Harmony module, delivering close to 6,000 lbs. (2,700 kilograms) of supplies and science experiments to the Expedition 52 crew.

SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying a used Dragon cargo craft blasts off from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on June 3, 2017

Another historic 1st for SpaceX

Today’s mission is the latest in a series of historic firsts for SpaceX, the private spaceflight company founded by billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk…With the ultimate (and highly ambitious) goal of being able to reuse all major components of their launch vehicles, SpaceX is now putting the Dragon to the test.

‘This whole notion of reuse is something that’s very important to the entire space industry and NASA as well as Space X and others,’ Kirk Shireman, manager of NASA’s ISS program, said in the briefing. ‘The idea of reuse is important for economic reasons as well as technical reasons.” [SpaceX Gaining Substantial Cost Savings From Reused Falcon 9]’

Science on board!

Along with food, water, clothing and other gear for the astronauts at the space station, the Dragon will deliver plenty of science experiments… The experiments on board will support about 220 investigations currently happening at the space station.

The Falcon 9 first stage touches down at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on June 3, 2017. Credit- SpaceX

A new, experimental type of solar panel is also flying to the space station on the Dragon. Called the Roll Out Solar Array (ROSA), these new solar arrays are smaller, lighter and more efficient than the current solar panels that power the ISS.

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket stage is seen safely on its Florida landing pad with the trail of its fiery descent visible in this amazing long-exposure photo taken June 3, 2017 Credit- SpaceX

The Dragon also contains some live passengers, including 40 mice and thousands of fruit flies. For a project called Rodent Research-5, the mice will help researchers study a new drug for osteoporosis, or bone density loss. The fruit flies will help investigators study the prolonged effects of spaceflight on the human heart.”

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post

NOTE: Lessons can also be used with native English speakers.

Level: Intermediate – Advanced

Language Skills: Reading, writing, and speaking. Vocabulary and grammar activities are included.

Time: Approximately 2 hours.

Materials: Student handout (from this lesson) and access to news article.

Objective: Students will read and discuss the article
with a focus on improving reading comprehension and learning new vocabulary. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through group work and writing.

I. Pre-Reading Activities

KWL Chart

The K-W-L chart is used to activate students’ background knowledge of a topic in order to enhance their comprehension skills.

Directions: Have students use the KWL chart from Michigan State University to list the information they already know about the Space X Dragon ship. Later in the Post- Reading segment of the lesson, students can fill in what they’ve learned about the topic.

II. While Reading Activities

Word Inference

Directions: Students are to infer the meanings of the words in bold taken from the article. They may use a dictionary, thesaurus, and Word Chart for assistance.

  1. The lingering storm clouds finally parted.
  2. The  Falcon 9 rocket  was able to safely lift off.
  3. The Falcon 9 rocket carried SpaceX’s first refurbished Dragon cargo craft.
  4. The Dragon separated from the Falcon 9’s second stage, deployed its solar arrays.
  5. This is  the seventh launch for SpaceX this year.
  6. The private spaceflight company was founded by billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk.
  7. Certain parts had to be replaced for a number of reasons, such as exposure to seawater during splashdown.
  8. Dragon has been in space before and has been docked to the station for a couple of weeks.
  9. This whole notion of reuse is something that’s very important to the entire space industry.
  10. The idea of reuse is  also important for economic reasons.

Reading Comprehension: Word -Recognition

Directions: Students choose the correct word to complete the sentences taken from the article. They are to choose from the options presented.

The Dragon will also delve/deliver  many science/scenes experiments. The experiments on board/broad will support about 220 investigations currently happening at the spice/space station. “They span a multitude/multiple of scientific disciplines, including biological research/reach, the physical sciences, the humane/human research that we’re doing with the astro/astronauts, the technology demonstration studying Earth and space from the ISS, and then last but not least, the educational activities/acts that students have an opportunity to participate in.

 Grammar Focus: Prepositions

Directions: The following sentences are from the news article.  For each sentence choose the correct preposition from the choices listed. Note that not all prepositions listed are in the article.

Prepositions:  in, for, of, with, by,  on, at, to, as, into, across, around, over,  through, from, during, up, off,

___Thursday weather permitted SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket___safely lift___.

A little___10 minutes___ the flight, the Dragon separated___the Falcon 9’s second stage.

___Monday the spacecraft will dock at the space station’s Harmony module.

Hans Koenigsmann, vice president ___flight reusability___SpaceX, said “We are hoping ___stay___ this rate ____the rest ___the year.

III. Post Reading Activities

KWL Chart

Directions:  Have students  fill in the last column of the KWL chart if they used one in the pre-reading segment of this lesson.

Discussion for Comprehension /Writing

Directions: Place students in groups  and  have each group compose a letter or note to a  person mentioned in the article telling her/him their thoughts on the topic. Share the letters as a class.

1-Minute Free Writing Exercise

Directions: Allow students 1 minute to write down one new idea they’ve learned from the reading. Ask them to write down one thing they did not understand in the reading.  Review the responses as a class. Note: For the lower levels allow more time for this writing activity.


Category: Science, Technology