Mission CRS-11: the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft has reached the International Space Station

The Dragon cargo spacecraft captured by the Canadarm2 robotic arm (Image NASA TV)
The Dragon cargo spacecraft captured by the Canadarm2 robotic arm (Image NASA TV)

A little while ago the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft was captured by the robotic arm Canadarm2 on the International Space Station. Jack Fischer, assisted by his colleague Peggy Whitson, managed the operation then started moving the Dragon to the berthing point at the Harmony module. The cargo spacecraft blasted off last Saturday.

The Dragon spacecraft’s approach to the International Space Station follows 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. On this occasion, the Dragon arrived in the middle of a Station’s crew rotation, with the result that now there are only three people aboard. For this reason, it may take some time to complete the operation.

The Dragon will remain docked to the Station for a few weeks as it’s scheduled to depart on July 2, 2017. Over the next month, a series of experiments and other items to take back to Earth will be loaded on it, which is the only cargo spacecraft able to return to Earth intact.

The Dragon will leave the International Space Station with its new cargo. The CRS-11 mission will be completed with its descent into the Pacific Ocean, off the coast of California. This last phase is important as well because various in-depth analyzes of samples can only be performed in specialized laboratories on Earth.

For SpaceX this is an important test of a reused cargo spacecraft. Elon Musk’s company received permission from NASA to launch a Dragon that had already carried out a mission and must demonstrate that deserved that confidence. The first test was passed with its arrival with no problems to the International Space Station.

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