Featured Image Source: SpaceX
SpaceX is preparing an upgraded cargo Dragon capsule for NASA's next resupply mission to the International Space Station (ISS). It will be SpaceX's 21st cargo mission under the agency's second Commercial Resupply Services (CRS-21) contract to deliver equipment and supplies needed to perform science research at the orbiting laboratory.
SpaceX has completed 20 cargo Dragon missions to and from the space station. The company has delivered over 95,000 pounds of supplies and returned 75,000 pounds. "Cargo resupply from U.S. companies ensures a national capability to deliver critical science research to the space station, significantly increasing NASA's ability to conduct new investigations at the only laboratory in space," the agency wrote in a press release.
The CRS-21 mission will be the first resupply mission that will utilize SpaceX's upgraded version of the cargo Dragon capsule, that is capable of carrying 50% more payload mass. This week NASA announced it targets to conduct the mission no earlier than December. A Falcon 9 rocket carrying Dragon will liftoff from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
The Dragon capsule will carry a variety of equipment on the upcoming flight. "On October 10, teams moved the Nanoracks Bishop Airlock to SpaceX’s processing facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center [...] Two days later, it was packed in the Dragon spacecraft’s trunk for its ride to the orbiting laboratory," the agency shared. The Nanoracks Bishop Airlock is already aboard the Dragon capsule's unpressurized trunk, ready to be delivered (pictured below). An airlock is a segment that is used like a airtight door to safely transfer cargo between the inside and outside of ISS.
Image Source: NASA / SpaceX
Inside the pressurized Dragon capsule will board equipment to perform scientific research and experiments at the space station. The supplies that will be transported during the CRS-21 launch will be used to study 'the effects of microgravity on cardiovascular cells, how space conditions affect the interaction between microbes and minerals, and a technology demonstration of a blood analysis tool in space.'
"Each resupply mission to the station delivers scientific investigations in the areas of biology and biotechnology, physical sciences, and Earth and space science. Advances in these areas will help to keep astronauts healthy during long-duration space travel and demonstrate technologies for future human and robotic exploration beyond low-Earth orbit to the Moon and Mars," NASA representatives state, "Space station research through the ISS National Lab also provides opportunities for other U.S. government agencies, private industry, and academic and research institutions to conduct microgravity research that leads to new technologies, medical treatments, and products that improve life on Earth."