Mission CRS-26: the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft has reached the International Space Station

The Dragon 2 cargo spacecraft approaching the International Space Station in its CRS-26 mission (Image NASA TV)
The Dragon 2 cargo spacecraft approaching the International Space Station in its CRS-26 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 leg of its mission. It blasted off on a Falcon 9 rocket from the Kennedy Space Center in its CRS-26 (Cargo Resupply Service 26) mission, also referred to as SpX-2, on Saturday, when it was the afternoon in the USA. Astronauts Josh Cassada and Nicole Mann monitored the operation but the cargo spacecraft completed the maneuvers in an automated way without any problems.

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 Dragon 2 spacecraft payload is over 3,500 kilograms (about 7,777 pounds) between the pressurized and non-pressurized sections. There are approximately 1,062 kilograms of food and other supplies for the International Space Station crew but most of the cargo consists of instruments, miscellaneous hardware, and other materials needed for scientific research and experiments conducted aboard the Station. The unpressurized section contains some highly-efficient roll-out iROSA solar panels.

The Veggie experiment for growing various plants to use as food for astronauts on the International Space Station continues to expand. It had previously targeted various vegetables, and now Veg-05 has been added, which is focused on a variety of dwarf tomatoes.

Moon Microscope is a medical test kit that includes a microscope that can be used to capture images of astronauts’ blood samples to be sent to Earth to diagnose possible health problems. The purpose is to use it for remote examinations of water and food samples as well.

Extrusion is an experiment that serves to test a technology based on a liquid resin to be used to create shapes that are impossible in Earth’s gravity but useful in microgravity to build structures of various types for various uses.

BioNutrients-2 represents the second phase of a program that aims to provide adequate nutrition for the crews of long-duration space missions. In this case, these are important substances derived from yogurt and kefir and a yeast-based drink. Samples will be brought back to Earth for comparison with other products obtained under normal Earth conditions.

The CRS-26 mission will end in about 45 months with the return to Earth. It’s slightly longer than usual but NASA continues to maintain a duration for Dragon 2 cargo spacecraft missions not much longer than a month even though this new version can stay in space much longer than the first version. The freighter used in this mission made its debut. The Dragon continues to be the only cargo spacecraft capable of returning cargo to Earth.

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