Featured Image Source: @thejackbeyer via Twitter.
SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft successfully completed its final resupply mission to the International Space Station (ISS) this week. It was the 20th mission under a Commercial Resupply Services (CRS-20) contract with NASA. The CRS-20 mission initiated on March 6, a Falcon 9 rocket lifted off from Pad 40 at Florida's Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, carrying the spacecraft on the last journey to the orbiting laboratory. On April 7, the craft was released from the space station to finalize the month-long mission. NASA Astronaut Andrew Morgan monitored Tuesday’s Dragon departure from the space station "That was the last time the arm and Dragon will meet that way so it was fun to watch," he said. "Congratulations to the SpaceX team and the teams all around the world for the successful Dragon mission over the last month and wrapping up Expedition 62." Dragon used its Draco thrusters to move away from ISS, in order to conduct a deorbit burn.
About 6 hours after leaving the orbiting laboratory, Dragon performed a fiery atmosphere reentry, and performed a parachute-assisted splashdown into the Pacific Ocean, off the coast from California's Long Beach. The spacecraft returned more than 4,000 pounds of equipment and vital scientific cargo, including the results of experiments conducted in microgravity. Dragon was even carrying live mice aboard! The mice that rode aboard are part of a Japanese research investigation studying genes are altered during spaceflight. According to NASA, the investigation will help scientists understand how to prepare astronauts for long-duration space voyages.
You know how in movies sad stuff always happens on rainy days? Well today was a very cinematic end for Cargo Dragon. It’s back on land and safely inside it’s lair. Congrats on a job well done to SpaceX and everyone who worked on the Dragon program. #SpaceXFleet @NASASpaceflight pic.twitter.com/ZD56WkfKcb— Jack Beyer (@thejackbeyer) April 9, 2020
SpaceX recovery teams recovered Dragon from the Pacific Ocean with NRC Quest, a recovery ship. Yesterday (April 9), SpaceX delivered the scorched Dragon to the Port of Los Angeles, its expected to be transported to SpaceX headquarters in California where the cargo will be unloaded. This particular Dragon spacecraft has conducted three resupply missions. NASASpaceflight photographers captured SpaceX's recovery operation on video (shown below).
After nearly a decade in service, SpaceX will retire the first iteration of the Dragon spacecraft. Since 2012, SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft has successfully launched vital scientific research to the orbiting laboratory for astronauts to conduct important research; and it safely brought back the experiment's results for scientist's on Earth to innovate. The company will replace the spacecraft with an upgraded version Dragon V2, also known as Crew Dragon. Throughout the years, SpaceX has successfully transported vital equipment and science research, including live animals and plants. Overall, the original Dragon capsule spent over 520 days stationed at the ISS laboratory, delivered delivered over 95,000 pounds of cargo, and returned over 76,000 pounds back to Earth.
Dragon's successor, a cargo variant of Crew Dragon, will be capable of docking autonomously to the space station and its designed to be reused up to 5 times. The first resupply mission with the upgraded capsule is scheduled for October this year. Dragon's retirement, initiates a new era in human spaceflight. SpaceX has plans to launch its first crewed flight aboard the Crew Dragon spacecraft in mid-to-late May.
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.