SpaceX launched its 22nd Dragon cargo mission to the International Space Station (ISS) under NASA’s second Commercial Resupply Services contract (CRS-22) on June 3rd. A new Falcon 9 rocket lifted off at 1:29 p.m. EDT on Friday from Launch Pad-39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. The uncrewed CRS-22 Dragon arrived to the orbiting laboratory early Saturday morning, after a voyage that lasted over 40-hours.
Dragon carried thousands of Tardigrades and bobtail squids among over 7,300 pounds of cargo that includes supplies to conduct scientific research, food for the astronauts in orbit, and vital hardware to upgrade the ISS. As the Space Station orbited 258-miles over the South Pacific ocean, Dragon conducted its maneuver to approach the station at the zenith and docked autonomously to the Harmony module at 5:09 a.m. EDT, on June 5. “Hard capture is complete and it's a great day seeing another Dragon on ISS,” spacecraft communicator Leslie Ringo said from NASA's Mission Control in Houston. This Dragon vehicle is the second upgraded vehicle to dock autonomously with no help from the station’s robotic arm.
Contact and capture are confirmed at 5:09am ET. @SpaceX's cargo Dragon has arrived at the @Space_Station, delivering over 7,300 pounds of @ISS_Research, equipment, supplies, and new roll-out solar arrays for the orbiting lab. pic.twitter.com/N9xPNC4Axq— NASA (@NASA) June 5, 2021
The autonomous docking operation was closely monitored by NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur who are ISS flight engineers. “It was a great approach and it was awesome watching it come on in. We’re glad its here,” said Kimbrough during the mission’s Live broadcast, “Looking forward to all the science and other goodies that it brought up, along with our [iROSA] solar arrays. It’s going to be a great few weeks as we get into Dragon and get things out,” he said. Inside Dragon’s unpressurized trunk is a pair of ISS Roll-Out Solar Arrays (iROSA) which are designed to improve the Space Station’s power system. The Station’s robotic Canadarm2 will be used to unload iROSA and the astronauts will install them during a set of spacewalks planned for June 16 and June 20.
The astronauts will first focus on unloading the most delicate items inside Dragon’s pressurized cabin, which includes 20,000 tiny Tardigrades (water bears) that will be part of a science research project that aims to figure out how the most resilient organisms on Earth can quickly adapt to its environment. The Tardigrades will live in microgravity to assess how their genes change. Figuring out these changes will enable scientists to see how spaceflight may affect humans. Also aboard Dragon are 125 glow-in-the-dark baby bobtail squids, which will be part of a study that aims to find out how traveling to space affects beneficial symbiotic microbes and their animal hosts. These are only two projects out of dozens more that arrived to the ISS Lab this morning. Dragon even delivered cotton plants to analyze their growth in microgravity, as well as samples of oral bacteria from dental patients that will test how toothpaste and mouthwash could keep space explorers’ teeth/gums healthy in space.
Knowing how tardigrades adapt to extreme environments can help us understand how to protect astronauts from the stresses of spaceflight. It could even lead to improved treatments for human health: https://t.co/kzuLkl0eoJ pic.twitter.com/MH7BF5ewj4— NASA (@NASA) June 4, 2021
Baby bobtail squids / NASA
Dragon also delivered goodies to the astronauts, like avocados, apples, lemons, oranges, and their favorite coffee. Among the payload, are ten CubeSats by different universities that will be deployed under NASA's ELaNa 36 (Educational Launch of Nanosatellites) program. In total, Dragon delivered 751 pounds (341 kilograms) of crew supplies, 2,028 pounds (920 kilograms) of science investigations, 115 pounds (52 kilograms) of spacewalk equipment, 760 pounds (345 kilograms of vehicle hardware and 129 pounds (58 kilograms) of computer resources, as shown in the video graphic below.
The @SpaceX #Dragon resupply ship is approaching the station with more than 7,300 pounds of crew supplies, science experiments, and new solar arrays to augment the orbital lab’s power system. https://t.co/cBNqC5JGaz pic.twitter.com/3Gg9rC9V9i— International Space Station (@Space_Station) June 5, 2021
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Featured Image Source: NASA Live Broadcast
About the Author
Evelyn J. Arevalo joined Tesmanian in 2019 to cover news as a Space Journalist and SpaceX Starbase Texas Correspondent. Evelyn is specialized in rocketry and space exploration. The main topics she covers are SpaceX and NASA.