A little while ago the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft was captured by the robotic arm Canadarm2 from the International Space Station. The Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti, assisted by commander Terry Virts, managed the operation and started moving the Dragon to the docking point of the Harmony module. The spacecraft was launched last Tuesday.
The approach of the Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station following a procedure that has become routine but remains long and delicate. The Station’s safety is the top priority so every little step of the Dragon gets checked. Only if all goes well in the spacecraft’s position and velocity they proceed with the next step and in case of any problems can be aborted at every step.
Tomorrow the crew of the International Space Station will open the Dragon spacecraft’s hatch and will start unloading its cargo. The Dragon will remain docked to the station for about five weeks. A series of experiments and other items to be brought back to Earth will be loaded on it, which is the only cargo spacecraft able to return to Earth intact.
The Dragon will restart from the International Space Station with a total load of just over 1,300 kg (almost 3,000 lbs). The CRS-6 mission will be completed with the descent into the Pacific Ocean, off the coast of California. The first part of the mission is accomplished and represents another success for SpaceX. Elon Musk’s company has almost completed half of the missions in its original contract with NASA but last month the agency extended it to a total of 15 missions.
For SpaceX last Tuesday there was also a new attempt to land the first stage of the rocket Falcon 9 on the autonomous spaceport drone ship “Just Read the Instructions”. The information and especially the videos released in the past two days show the progress made. It’s difficult to say how many attempts they’ll need to achieve a controlled landing and to be able to reuse the first stage but the experiments will continue to manage to significantly reduce the cost of the Falcon 9 launches.