This month on December 5th, SpaceX conducted the 19th mission under their Commercial Resupply Cargo Services contract with NASA, known as CRS-19. They successfully launched a Falcon 9 rocket to conduct the deployment of their Dragon spacecraft. Dragon arrived with over 5,700 pounds of cargo to the International Space Station (ISS), docking to the robotic arm, called Canadarm2.
.@Astro_Luca shares a congratulatory message after he and @AstroDrewMorgan caught the @SpaceX #Dragon at 5:05am ET today with the @CSA_ASC Canadarm2 robotic arm. Read more... https://t.co/99GpYE9gpQ pic.twitter.com/Bmusbyo2xl— Intl. Space Station (@Space_Station) December 8, 2019
After almost a month of staying at the space station attached to the Harmony module, NASA announced Dragon is under going preparations to depart the station early next week on January 5, 2020.
Expedition 61 Astronauts have been loading the craft with degraded hardware for inspection on Earth, as well as cargo involving the results of the variety of experiments conducted on the orbiting laboratory over the last weeks. [Read about the cargo aboard and experiments conducted.]NASA astronaut Andrew Morgan started filling Dragon up with cargo today (December 30) and astronauts Jessica Meir and Christina Koch assisted.
This was the third voyage for this particular Dragon craft, its previous cargo missions took place in September 2014 and July 2017. It is the second time SpaceX has reused the same Dragon spacecraft 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 significantly reduces the cost of manufacturing and operating which is beneficial to everyone involved.
When the Dragon spacecraft returns to Earth, it will be released from the station's robotic arm on Sunday at 9:41 p.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 to splashdown along California's Pacific coast a few hours later. The spacecraft will return carrying about 1,800 lbs. of all the previous scientific experiments and tools that aren't occupied anymore at the station.