Mission CRS-22: the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft has reached the International Space Station

The Dragon spacecraft approaching the International Space Station (Image NASA TV)
The Dragon spacecraft approaching the International Space Station (Image NASA TV)

A little while ago, SpaceX’s Dragon 2 spacecraft docked with the International Space Station’s Harmony module. Astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur monitored the operation, but the cargo spacecraft, which blasted off last Friday, 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 first version of the Dragon stopped in the position where it was captured by the Station’s Canadarm2 robotic arm, the Dragon 2 takes further steps of approach until its berthing.

The CRS-22 mission will end in about a month with its return to Earth. The Dragon continues to be the only space freighter capable of bringing cargoes back to Earth. This new version can remain docked with the Station for up to 75 days but for now, SpaceX’s resupply missions continue to last about a month. The next resupply mission for the Dragon freighter might be the first to have doubled duration.

For now, the evaluations concern reuse, and for this mission, SpaceX has used a new spacecraft while the one used in the previous mission is being refurbished after getting thoroughly examined. The idea is to reuse the new version of the Dragon freighter for the first time in the next resupply mission. The launch of this Dragon 2 was carried out on a Falcon 9 rocket with a new first stage, a first for SpaceX this year after a series of launches with flight-proven first stages. After the launch, the first stage successfully landed on the “Of Course I Still Love You” drone ship and is scheduled to be reused next October for the Crew-3 mission, the next crewed launch to the International Space Station.

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