Featured Image Source: NASA/ESA Astronaut Thomas Pesquet
SpaceX’s 22nd Dragon cargo mission to the International Space Station (ISS) under NASA’s second Commercial Resupply Services contract (CRS-22) will soon be completed when the spacecraft returns this week. CRS-22 Dragon was launched to the orbiting laboratory a month ago, carrying over 7,300 pounds of important cargo and dozens of science supplies to conduct research in microgravity. The spacecraft also delivered the first two of six new solar arrays to upgrade the Space Station’s power system inside its unpressurized trunk. The ISS Roll Out Solar Arrays (iROSAs) were installed by SpaceX Crew-2 NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough and European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Thomas Pesquet during a trio of spacewalks last month.
Dragon is now on its voyage back to Earth. Expedition 65 astronauts loaded the Dragon capsule with around 5,000 pounds of cargo to return, including the results of some scientific experiments conducted at the ISS Lab. ESA Astronaut Pesquet shared a photograph of Dragon loaded, "This is over 2000 kg of science samples and equipment. Cargo Dragon is packed and ready to leave for 🌎 [Earth]. Scientist's can't wait! #MissionAlpha," Pesquet said via Twitter.
Preparing for the departure of @SpaceX #CargoDragon CRS22. Just before closing the hatch, we pack it full of our frozen bodily fluids: blood, urine, saliva... and more that I won't mention 😊 #MissionAlpha pic.twitter.com/qytqn28tNx— Thomas Pesquet (@Thom_astro) July 8, 2021
After Tropical Storm Elsa delayed CRS-22 Dragon’s return to Earth by a couple of days, this morning the spacecraft undocked from the Space Station’s Harmony module at 10:45 a.m. EDT, as NASA Astronaut Kimbrough monitored the undocking operation from aboard the ISS. Dragon autonomously departed the Station and fired its Draco thrusters to move away in preparation for its return sequence. Dragon will orbit Earth for the next 36 hours to reenter Earth’s atmosphere by Friday, July 9. “Dragon is expected to splash down at approximately 11:29 p.m. in the Gulf of Mexico near Tallahassee, Florida. The splashdown will not be broadcast,” the agency announced in a press release.
Dragon will utilize the Draco thrusters that are located around the spacecraft’s docking port to conduct a deorbit burn that will slow the spacecraft down to fall out into Earth’s atmosphere atop the splashdown zone target. Upon reentry, it will perform a parachute-assisted splashdown off the coast of Florida. NASA and SpaceX recovery teams aboard a GO Searcher ship will recover the capsule to take the vital cargo to the Kennedy Space Center’s Space Station Processing Facility. The agency says that splashing down the spacecraft near the facility enables faster recovery and transportation of cargo to their facility within 4 to 9 hours after splashdown. “This shorter transportation timeframe allows researchers to collect data with minimal loss of microgravity effects,” agency representatives said, “The Dragon’s departure will be the second splashdown of a U.S. commercial cargo craft off the Florida coast. Previous cargo Dragon spacecraft returned to the Pacific Ocean, with quick-return science cargo processed at SpaceX’s facility in McGregor, Texas, and delivered to NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.” The list below are a few scientific samples of research conducted at ISS Lab that are returning aboard CRS-22 Dragon.
Some of the scientific investigations Dragon will return to Earth include:
Source: List compiled by NASA
Today @SpaceX #CargoDragon left us after a month on board. Can you tell if these pictures are of the undocking or of the docking in June? 🤗 Answer in the metadata: https://t.co/dJ04Qn0SMN #MissionAlpha pic.twitter.com/wLHyw7UQn4— Thomas Pesquet (@Thom_astro) July 8, 2021
All Images Source: NASA