Featured Image Source: NASA
SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket blasted off on March 6 from Florida's Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Pad 40, 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 the original Dragon spacecraft's last mission, the craft has successfully flown twenty missions. When the CRS-20 mission is completed on Tuesday, April 7, the first iteration of Dragon will retire to be replaced with an upgraded version Dragon 2, also known as Crew Dragon. Which will be capable of carrying up to seven astronauts aboard and feature the capability to dock autonomously to the space station.
Next week, when the Dragon spacecraft returns from the space station, it will bring back over 4,000 pounds of cargo. Including important science experiments that were conducted in the orbiting laboratory. Some of the science research that will be brought back to Earth include:
- BioNutrients, a technology to make food and nutrients in space.
- BioFabrication, an experiment to print the first human organs in space.
- Engineered Heart Tissues, a study looks at how 3D human heart tissue functions in space.
- Space Biofilms, is a research which examines microbial species and their formation of biofilms, which are a collection of microorganisms.
Research conducted at the space station's lab has provided the world with new knowledge that serves to improve technology and medical treatments on Earth. As well as, develop new technology that will enable human life on other planets.
The spacecraft's departure will occur on Tuesday morning. As robotic flight controllers from mission control at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, will send commands to the space station's robotic Canadarm2 arm to release Dragon. Astronaut Andrew Morgan, a flight engineer, will monitor the craft's release that is scheduled for around 9:52 a.m. EDT. Upon release, Dragon will use its thrusters to move away from the station. Then, it will execute a deorbit burn to reenter Earth's atmosphere. NASA expects the craft to return from space at around 3:40 p.m. on Tuesday. It will deploy it's parachutes to perform a controlled splashdown into the Pacific Ocean, southwest of Long Beach, California.
This will be Dragon's final splashdown -marking the end of an era.
Since its first mission in 2012 – when it became the first private spacecraft to visit the @space_station – Dragon has spent over 520 days attached to the orbiting laboratory, delivered over 95,000 pounds of cargo, and returned over 76,000 pounds back to Earth pic.twitter.com/7wVBIlLhL6— SpaceX (@SpaceX) March 6, 2020
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. SpaceX's experience launching cargo has demonstrated the company is ready to launch humans to space. Dragon will be retired after the CRS-20 mission ends. Its successor, Crew Dragon, will launch NASA Astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken to the space station for the first time. SpaceX announced the mission is scheduled for mid-to-late May. The first crewed flight is expected to bring back the excitement of manned missions to space launched from American soil.
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.