NASA announced that SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft departure from the International Space Station (ISS) will be delayed due to harsh weather conditions in the California coast where the craft will splashdown upon space re-entry. The previous ISS departure date was Sunday January 5th, it has been re-scheduled to January 7th, next week. Upon returning to Earth on Tuesday, Dragon will be released from the station's robotic arm at 5:03 a.m. EST. Then after drifting a safe distance away from the space station, Dragon will fire its engines to conduct a deorbit burn that will take the craft into Earth's atmosphere. As this occurs, Dragon will have a fiery entry and deploy its integrated parachutes to splashdown in the Pacific ocean at around 10:47 a.m. along the coast of Long Beach, California. NASA Announced: "Due to a forecast of bad weather in the splashdown zone, the return of the SpaceX Dragon cargo ship is delayed until Tuesday, Jan. 7. Release of Dragon from Canadarm2 is scheduled for 5:03 a.m. EST. NASA TV coverage will begin at 4:45 a.m. Splashdown is scheduled for 10:47 a.m. The splashdown will not air on NASA TV."
The craft arrived at the station one month ago, on December 5, 2019, it is SpaceX's 19th mission under their Commercial Resupply Cargo Services contract with NASA (CRS-19). This was the third voyage for this particular Dragon spacecraft, its previous cargo missions took place in September 2014 and July 2017. It is the second time SpaceX has reused the same Dragon craft three times for a NASA cargo mission, demonstrating the craft is capable of being reusable and still reliable to send cargo safely again. Reusing spacecraft is a great achievement for the company because it significantly reduces the cost of manufacturing and operating which is beneficial to everyone involved.
The Dragon spacecraft supporting this mission previously flew in support of our fourth and eleventh commercial resupply missions pic.twitter.com/P6ceGX9Pz1— SpaceX (@SpaceX) November 26, 2019
Dragon arrived with over 5,700 pounds of cargo to the space station. After almost a month of staying at the station attached to the Harmony module, it will come back to Earth next week bringing some cargo that includes a variety of scientific experiments. The cargo includes degraded hardware, 40 mice and some microscopic aquatic creatures. Expedition 61 astronauts conducted several experiments aboard the orbiting laboratory and will now send the results to Earth. Read more: SpaceX Dragon will depart on Tuesday from the Space Station carrying Cargo, Mice, and tiny Aquatic Creatures onboard!
This version of the Dragon spacecraft will be retired soon, it will preform CRS-20 a final resupply mission for NASA in March. Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX, wrote last month:
In total, SpaceX has flown the Dragon spacecraft(s) on 19 CRS resupply missions to the space station under their contract with NASA. SpaceX plans to replace the spacecraft with a more technologically advanced version. Dragon Version 2, known as Crew Dragon, because this craft is created to carry both tons of cargo and up to 7 astronauts.
The updated version of Dragon demonstrated capability to autonomously dock to the International Space Station during the first demonstration mission, Demo-1, last year. On January 11, SpaceX engineers aim to conduct a vital In-Flight Abort (IFA) test on the new version of Dragon. This IFA test will simulate a launch emergency to test the crafts ability to escape from danger, before the first crewed mission takes place sometime this year. If the test goes well, Crew Dragon will launch cargo and astronauts to the space station within the first quarter of 2020.