Mission CRS-12: the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft has reached the International Space Station

The Dragon cargo spacecraft captured by the International Space Station's robotic arm (Image NASA TV)
The Dragon cargo spacecraft captured by the International Space Station’s robotic arm (Image NASA TV)

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

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 International Space Station crew will open the Dragon spacecraft’s hatch and will start unloading its cargo. The Dragon will be docked with the Station for a few weeks. In the course of the next month, a series of experiments and other objects to be brought back to Earth will be loaded into 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-12 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 be carried out only in specialized laboratories on Earth.

For SpaceX this was the last scheduled use of a completely new cargo spacecraft. According to the company plans in agreement with NASA, in the next missions a Dragon that had already carried out a mission will be used. The first test of this type was passed in the CRS-11 mission.

The CRS-12 mission is also important for SpaceX because it’s already the third of this year wo in 2017 the company has already conducted the highest number of resupply missions in a year. It’s also the twelfth, the last originally part of the contract with NASA subsequently extended up to a total of 20 missions. The contract was renewed in 2016 for a further number of resupply missions to be started in 2019 or 2020.

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