NASA Astronauts at the Space Station prepare SpaceX Dragon capsule to send Cargo to Earth

NASA Astronauts at the Space Station prepare SpaceX Dragon capsule to send Cargo to Earth

Featured Image Source: NASA

For the first time in history there are two SpaceX Dragon spacecraft docked at the International Space Station (ISS). The spacecraft arrived last year and remain docked to the station’s Harmony module. Crew Dragon arrived with a crew of four astronauts to ISS in mid-November, and in December SpaceX performed the 21st Commercial Resupply Services (CRS-21) mission for NASA with the upgraded Dragon capsule. On December 6, a thrice flown SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifted off for the fourth time from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, carrying the CRS-21 Dragon capsule on a 26-hour-long voyage to the orbiting laboratory. “This is the first flight of the updated cargo version of Dragon, which is capable of carrying about 20 percent more volume than the previous version of Dragon and has double the amount of powered locker cargo capability,” SpaceX stated in a press release that day, “Dragon is now designed for up to five flights to and from the space station, and this cargo version of the spacecraft can stay on station more than twice as long as the previous version of Dragon,” the company states.



The uncrewed CRS-21 mission delivered over 6,400 pounds of scientific cargo to the Space Station. The spacecraft docked to the station’s Harmony module on December 7. After a 35-day stay, Expedition 64 astronauts are now preparing the Dragon capsule to return it to Earth. Dragon is expected to deliver a variety of equipment, including the results of a variety of scientific experiments the crew performed in microgravity. NASA astronaut Shannon Walker spent the weekend readying Dragon for its upcoming departure. The vehicle will be loaded with 5,200 pounds of scientific cargo, “...samples from this weekend’s experiments and more, including space station hardware, for return to Earth on January 11,” the agency announced in a press release today. Dragon is shceduled to undock at 9:25 a.m. Eastern Time. 

NASA astronaut Victor Glover will oversee the undocking operations of the Cargo Dragon from the Harmony module’s 'space-facing international docking adapter'; It will be the first time a SpaceX capsule undocks from that specific port. "Dragon will fire its thrusters to move a safe distance from the station’s space-facing port of the Harmony module, then initiate a deorbit burn to begin its re-entry sequence into Earth’s atmosphere. Dragon is expected to make its parachute-assisted splashdown around 9 p.m. – the first return of a cargo resupply spacecraft in the Atlantic Ocean," NASA representatives stated. "Splashing down off the coast of Florida enables quick transportation of the science aboard the capsule to the agency’s Kennedy Space Center’s Space Station Processing Facility, and back into the hands of the researchers. This shorter transportation timeframe allows researchers to collect data with minimal loss of microgravity effects [...]," they wrote. You can watch the undocking operations Live starting at 9:00 a.m. Eastern Time on January 11 in the video below, courtesy of NASA Television.




About the Author

Evelyn Arevalo

Evelyn Arevalo

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.

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