A few hours ago, the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft ended its CRS-22 (Cargo Resupply Service 22) mission for NASA splashing down smoothly in the Gulf of Mexico, off the coast of Florida. The Dragon left the International Space Station last Thursday. For SpaceX, this was the second mission of the second contract with NASA to transport resupplies to the Station with the new version of the Dragon cargo spacecraft, which splashes down near the East coast of the USA instead of the Pacific Ocean.
Shortly after the splashdown, SpaceX’s “Go Navigator” recovery ship went to retrieve the Dragon to transport it to the coast. The cargo brought back to Earth will be delivered to NASA within a few hours. The Dragon spacecraft reached the International Space Station on June 5, 2021.
The Dragon spacecraft brought back to Earth about 2,400 kg (about 5,300 lbs) of mixed cargo that includes various scientific experiments and biological samples. Part of the samples is contained in the freezers because they need to be kept at low temperatures. The new version of the Dragon space freighter has twice the capacity to transport samples to Earth as the first version.
SpaceX is the only American company that has a spacecraft capable of bringing intact cargo back to Earth so the Dragon missions are really important for NASA. Samples produced during many of the experiments conducted on the International Space Station may require in-depth analyzes possible only in specialized laboratories on Earth. The cargoes are delivered to NASA within no more than 9 hours.
The next resupply mission for the Dragon cargo spacecraft could begin already on August 18, 2021. The dates are always approximate, and for the confirmation of the next mission, the results of the check-up of the Dragon that just came back to Earth will still be important, as this is only the second mission for the new version of SpaceX’s spacecraft. If the schedule is met, the CRS-22 mission could be the last one lasting just over a month because the new Dragon can stay in space for a longer time and NASA intends to extend the next missions to 60 days and beyond.