Dragon Splashes Down in Pacific With NASA Research and Cargo
Following release from the International Space Station by ground controllers at 9:23 a.m. EDT, SpaceX’s Dragon cargo spacecraft splashed down in the Pacific Ocean at about 3 p.m. This marks the end of the company’s 14th contracted cargo resupply mission to the space station for NASA.
A boat will take the Dragon to the port at Long Beach, where some cargo will be removed and returned to NASA. Dragon will be prepared for a return journey to SpaceX’s test facility in McGregor, Texas, for processing.
Dragon is returning more than 4,000 pounds of NASA cargo and science samples from a variety of technological and biological studies about the space station. Some of the science returning on this flight includes samples from the Metabolic Tracking study that could lead to more effective, less expensive drugs, the APEX-06 investigation examining how to effectively grow crops in space, and the Fruit Fly Lab–03 investigation to research disease genes and immunity to help prepare for future long-duration human space exploration missions.
Dragon Heads Home After Month Long Stay at Station
Robotic flight controllers released the SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft from the International Space Station’s robotic arm at 9:23 a.m. EDT, and Expedition 55 Flight Engineer Scott Tingle of NASA is monitoring its departure.
Dragon’s thrusters will be fired to move the spacecraft a safe distance from the station before SpaceX flight controllers in Hawthorne, California, command its deorbit burn about 2:06 p.m. The capsule will splashdown about 3 p.m. in the Pacific Ocean, where recovery forces will retrieve the capsule and its more than 4,000 pounds of cargo, including a variety of technological and biological studies.
The deorbit burn and splashdown will not be broadcast on NASA TV.
NASA and the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), the non-profit organization that manages research aboard the U.S. National Laboratory portion of the space station, will receive time-sensitive samples and begin working with researchers to process and distribute them within 48 hours of splashdown.
Dragon is the only space station resupply spacecraft currently capable of returning cargo to Earth, and this was the second trip to the orbiting laboratory for this spacecraft, which completed its first mission nearly two years ago. SpaceX launched its 14th NASA-contracted commercial resupply mission to the station April 2 from Space Launch Complex 40 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on a Falcon 9 rocket that also previously launched its 12th NASA-contracted commercial resupply mission to the station.
Astronauts Assembling Gear for Installation During Upcoming Spacewalk
The Expedition 55 crew members are getting their U.S. spacesuits and equipment ready for a spacewalk in two weeks. The Dragon cargo craft from SpaceX is nearly loaded with NASA science and gear ahead of its Saturday return to Earth.
NASA astronauts Ricky Arnold and Drew Feustel are assembling hardware today that will be installed on the International Space Station when they conduct a spacewalk on May 16. The duo were assisted throughout the day by fellow NASA astronaut Scott Tingle scrubbing U.S. spacesuit water cooling loops and testing water samples for conductivity.
The veteran spacewalkers were mating repaired components from an external television camera group (ETVCG) that will be attached to the starboard side of the Destiny laboratory module. Their primary spacewalking task however, will be the swap out of thermal control gear that circulates ammonia to keep station systems cool.
Final packing is taking place inside the Dragon space freighter today as Tingle loads critical time-sensitive research samples inside the Earth-bound resupply ship. Robotics controllers will detach Dragon from the Harmony module Friday before releasing it Saturday at 9:24 a.m. from the grips of the Canadarm2. NASA TV will begin its live broadcast of the departure at 9 a.m. but will not televise its 3 p.m. splashdown in the Pacific Ocean.
Station Readies Dragon for Departure Ahead of Upcoming Spacewalk
The SpaceX Dragon resupply ship’s stay at the International Space Station has been extended until Saturday after unfavorable conditions were reported at the splashdown zone in the Pacific Ocean. In the meantime, time-sensitive payloads are still being readied for return to Earth as the crew wraps up final cargo packing.
Robotics controllers will operate the Canadarm2 to detach Dragon from the International Space Station’s Harmony module on Friday. It will be remotely released into Earth orbit Saturday at 9:24 a.m. EDT before finally splashing down in the Pacific Ocean around 3 p.m. Flight Engineer Scott Tingle will be in the Cupola monitoring Dragon as it slowly backs away from the space station.
NASA TV’s live coverage of Dragon’s departure begins Saturday at 9 a.m. The space freighter’s parachuted splashdown 403 miles off the coast of Long Beach, Calif. will not be televised.
Two NASA astronauts are looking ahead to their next spacewalk scheduled for May 16. Veteran spacewalkers Ricky Arnold and Drew Feustel took their body measurements today to ensure a proper fit inside their U.S. spacesuits. The duo will work outside the orbital lab for about 6.5 hours to swap out thermal control gear that circulates ammonia to keep station systems cool.
Japanese astronaut Norishige Kanai, who will assist the spacewalkers in two weeks, began configuring the Quest airlock where the 210th spacewalk at the station will be staged. He also trained to detect and clean ammonia from the spacesuits should they become contaminated during the maintenance spacewalk.
Dragon’s departure was pushed back from Wednesday after SpaceX personnel observed high sea states in the Pacific Ocean splashdown zone southwest of Long Beach, California. Its remotely controlled release from the Canadarm2 is now scheduled for Saturday at 9:30 a.m. EDT with live NASA TV coverage beginning at 9 a.m. Dragon’s splashdown is targeted at about 3 p.m. but will not be seen on NASA TV.
Mice living on the station have been transferred to specialized habitats in Dragon. They will be studied on Earth to observe how their bones and muscles have changed during their stay in microgravity. Other critical biological samples preserved in science freezers, such as plants, insects and human tissue, have also been transferred into Dragon for retrieval and analysis.
The astronauts and cosmonauts living on the space station exercise every day to maintain strong bones and muscles on orbit. One of the workout machines, the Advanced Resistance Exercise Device (ARED), got a tune up today amid the Dragon close out activities. Flight Engineer Drew Feustel greased the ARED’s rails and rollers and inspected its x-axis rotation points.