Mission CRS-25: the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft has reached the International Space Station

The Dragon 2 cargo spacecraft docking with the International Space Station in its CRS-25 mission (Image NASA TV)
The Dragon 2 cargo spacecraft docking with the International Space Station in its CRS-25 mission (Image NASA TV)

A little while ago, SpaceX’s Dragon 2 spacecraft docked with the International Space Station’s Harmony module completing the first part of its CRS-25 mission. Astronauts Bob Hines and Jessica Watkins monitored the operation, but the cargo spacecraft, which blasted off when it was Thursday in the USA, completed the maneuvers automatically without any problem.

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. The Dragon 2 carries out all the maneuvers automatically up to the docking and the procedure can be interrupted until the last moment.

The previous missions already provided positive feedback regarding the possibility of reusing the new version of the Dragon space freighter. In SpaceX and NASA’s plans, each Dragon will be used up to 5 times. The third use of the same space freighter is an important step and sets a new record for the company.

SpaceX continues to accumulate missions within the company’s contracts with NASA even if things don’t always go perfectly. The CRS-25 mission was supposed to start over a month ago but during this space freighter’s setup operations, an excess of fuel vapors leaking from the Draco thrusters was detected. It’s a toxic compound, so operations were suspended to examine the spacecraft systems. Extensive analyzes revealed imperfections in the surface of some valves, which were replaced. As a precaution, the parachutes were also replaced for fear that the vapors could have contaminated them causing damage. Subsequent tests revealed no contamination and the parachutes could be used for another spacecraft.

The CRS-25 mission will end in about a month with the return to Earth. NASA continues to maintain this duration for the Dragon 2 space freighter missions even though this new version can stay in space much longer than the first version. The Dragon continues to be the only cargo spacecraft capable of returning cargo to Earth.

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