Sunday, August 28, 2016

Dragon Returns to Earth

Dragon cargo capsule about to splash into the Pacific. Credit: SpaceX

SpaceX achieved another successful conclusion to a Dragon cargo ISS mission Friday, when their Dragon space capsule safely splashed into the waters of the Pacific Ocean west of Baja California. It was their 9th cargo resupply of the orbital station. Inside the capsule were returning samples form experiments in astronaut biology, crystal development, and other microgravity experiments that can only be performed on the space station.

Artist depiction of International Docking Adapter at end of docking node, about to receive a future docking from a manned capsule. Credit: NASA.

One of the main missions of this Dragon flight was the safe delivery of the International Docking Adapter to ISS. Mostly constructed by Boeing and RPG Energia, the adaptor will allow the safe and quick docking of the various national and commercial space capsule that are in devlopment or currently in use. On August 19, Expedition 48 commander Jeff Williams and flight engineer Kate Rubins performed an EVA to help move the adapter from the Dragon storage section to its new docking port location.

 Kate Rubins works outside the ISS on an EVA to attach the new docking adapter.

 After a six-hour walk in space, the pair of astronauts finished their assembly tasks and returned to the station interior. The EVA was the 194th spacewalk working on assembly and ,aintenance of the ISS. The adapter they installed was the first of two such adapters, another one to be delivered on another flight. Starting with the first commercial crewed flight, possibly next year, and probably by SpaceX Dragon 2, Boeing and SpaceX capsules that are manned will use the new adapter ports.

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