Featured Image Source: NASA
SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket blasted off on Friday, March 6. from Florida's Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Pad 40 at around 11:50 p.m. EST. carrying the Dragon spacecraft on a final journey to the International Space Station (ISS). This launch initiated the month-long CRS-20, SpaceX's 20th resupply mission under NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services (CRS-1) program. This is Dragon's last mission, the craft has successfully flown twenty missions. When the CRS-20 mission is completed in April, the first iteration of Dragon will be retired to be replaced with an upgraded version Dragon 2 (Crew Dragon) capable of carrying astronauts aboard and docking autonomously to the space station.
Dragon arrived today Monday, March 9. to the station while it was about 262 miles above Earth, passing over the Northeast Pacific near Vancouver, British Columbia. Expedition 62 Flight Engineer, Astronaut Jessica Meir controlled ISS's robotic arm Canadaarm2 to grab Dragon at 6:25 a.m. EDT. NASA Astronaut Andrew Morgan assisted her.
NASA ground controllers then sent commands to install the spacecraft to the Harmony module at the station. Dragon was successfully installed to the port at 8:18 a.m. It delivered over 4,300 pounds of hardware, supplies, and scientific equipment to conduct research at the orbiting laboratory. Astronaut Meir radioed after Dragon's capture:
"The SpaceX 20 mission is a milestone. It is, of course, the 20th SpaceX cargo mission, but it is also the last SpaceX cargo vehicle captured by the Canada arm as future vehicles will automatically dock to the space station. […] Congratulations to SpaceX and all of the ISS partner teams involved."
Today we caught a 🐉 on @Space_Station, marking the last @SpaceX cargo vehicle captured with the #Canadarm2. From now on, @SpaceX will automatically dock to station. This #Dragon capsule has been on station 2 times prior - sustainability is paramount to future space exploration. pic.twitter.com/rJ0ZYKdmhd— Jessica Meir (@Astro_Jessica) March 9, 2020
CRS-20 Dragon capsule carried a total of 4,358 pounds to the station, with 3,326 pounds being transported in the pressurized capsule. The rest in the craft's unpressurized trunk, which contains the Bartolomeo research platform, which was developed by Airbus Space to be mounted outside the space station during an upcoming spacewalk. Bartolomeo features 12 payload slots that the company will rent-out to host scientific cargo and experiments.
NASA's mission control commentator Leah Cheshier shared that the astronaut crew also received some goodies, she said:
"Some of the things the astronauts can be looking forward to include some candy and olives, salami as well as fresh food like grapefruit, oranges, apples and even fresh garlic."
Expedition 62 astronauts will unload all the cargo. Break-down of Dragon's cargo is: 123 pounds of equipment required to support future spacewalks, 483 pounds of vehicle hardware, a single kilogram of computer equipment, 602 pounds of crew supplies, and 2,116 pounds of a variety of materials to conduct scientific experiments at the ISS Lab. Read about some of the research:SpaceX will carry scientific cargo aboard Dragon to the Space Station this week -Learn more!
Dragon is scheduled to return to Earth on April 9. loaded with unneeded hardware from the station and previous experiment results. Then the craft will retire after nearly a decade of operation, ending the first NASA Commercial Resupply Services contract, CRS-1. The CRS-1 contract completed 20 flights, valued at over $3 billion. Dragon 1 delivered over 94,000 pounds of cargo.
SpaceX will conduct their first crewed mission to the space station with the upgraded Dragon 2 spacecraft in May. The first cargo flight under the a new resupply contract CRS-2, is sheduled for October this year.