SpaceX’s Dragon cargo capsule docked safely at the International Space Station (ISS) on July 27. The craft arrived at its interstellar destination two days after it launched via a Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral Airforce Station in Florida.
The historic effort marked the first time a previously-flown Dragon has made the ISS run three times. Furthermore, the spaceflight logged the company’s eighteenth Commercial Services Resupply mission (CRS-18) for NASA.
Overall, the spacecraft delivered over 5,000 pounds of research, equipment, cargo, and supplies to the orbiting lab.
‘Capturing’ the Dragon
ISS Expedition 60 crew members Christina Koch and Nick Hague orchestrated the vessel’s successful arrival at the space station’s Earth-facing side of the Harmony module on Saturday. The pair of NASA astronauts worked together to attach the Dragon to its docking point.
Hague reportedly used the space lab’s Canadian-made robotic arm to “capture” Dragon as the facility drifted 267 miles above the southern Chile coast. He shared details about the maneuver on Twitter. Moreover, the astronaut posted pictures of the arm locking onto the capsule.
It was a great day to capture a #Dragon🐉 @Astro_Christina and I captured the visiting vehicle using @Space_Station’s robotic arm Canadarm2. Want to learn more about the 5,000+ pounds of research, equipment, cargo and supplies aboard dragon? Details here: https://t.co/ucfM2UotgH pic.twitter.com/Sj8c3TB1R6
— Nick Hague (@AstroHague) July 27, 2019
NASA also posted a video of the effort:
We captured the #Dragon🐉! At 9:11am ET, @AstroHague and @Astro_Christina use the @Space_Station’s robotic arm, Canadarm2, to grab @SpaceX’s #Dragon cargo vehicle while our orbiting laboratory was traveling more than 267 miles over southern Chile. Details: https://t.co/XpYAUMZfLJ pic.twitter.com/MR19yEkzLx
— NASA (@NASA) July 27, 2019
The Dragon-18 is reportedly docked at ISS with four other spaceships. Namely, they are the Northrop Grumman Cygnus space freighter, the Progress 72 resupply ship, and two Soyuz crew ships, the MS-12, and MS-13.
New Docking Port Arrival Follows ISS Crew Expansion
The CRS-18 payload deliveries arrived at the ISS one week after three new crew members joined space station residents Koch, Hague, and Expedition 60 Commander Alexey Ovchinin of Roscosmos.
NASA astronaut Andrew Morgan, Luca Parmitano of the European Space Agency (ESA), and Alexander Skvortsov of Roscosmos entered the ISS from a Soyuz MS-13 rocket on July 20. Their arrival fell on the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. It also brought the space station to a full six-member crew capacity.
Furthermore, hundreds of new scientific space studies arrived at the ISS via the Dragon spacecraft. Notable experiments include a Parkinson’s disease-focused investigation and a silica-producing Goodyear Tire study.
Additionally, the International Docking Adapter-3 (IDA-3), traveled into orbit inside Dragon’s “unpressurized” section. The module will enable additional incoming spacecraft (including crewed ships) to connect the space station.
To attach it, flight controllers located at mission control in Houston, Texas, will use the station’s robotic arm to remove IDA-3 from Dragon. Next, they will “position it over Pressurized Mating Adapter-3, on the space-facing side of the Harmony module.”
In mid-August, American astronauts Morgan and Hague will install the new docking port during a spacewalk. As part of the effort, the ISS crewmates will connect power and data cables. Moreover, they will install a high-definition camera on the boom arm. Finally, before the crew finalizes its operation, flight controllers on Earth will remotely move the port into the appropriate position.
SpaceX’s Future Launch Plans
SpaceX tested its “Starhopper” rocket in its first untethered flight closely following the CRS-18 launch on July 25.
According to a CNN report, Starhopper is “designed to be an early precursor to a deep-space exploration rocket called Starship.” As The Burn-In reported, the Elon Musk-helmed company plans to launch its first commercial Starship mission by 2021.
Meanwhile, the Dragon will remain docked at the ISS for approximately four weeks. Following its departure, the rocket will return about 3,000 pounds of cargo to Earth. The CRS-18 mission is part of the corporation’s $3.04 billion contract with NASA that covers 20 resupply missions.
Furthermore, SpaceX has contracts with the U.S. space agency to develop the Crew Dragon (or Dragon 2) capsule, that will transport cargo and astronauts to the ISS. With buzz continuing to build about NASA’s impending Artemis mission, SpaceX also intends to further its own goals to carry humans to the moon.