NASA on January 12 informed that an upgraded SpaceX cargo Dragon spacecraft has successfully undocked from the International Space State (ISS) and is now heading for Splashdown on Earth on Thursday with key science experiments, including mice. According to a press release, it is the first undocking of a US commercial cargo craft from the International Docking Adapter on ISS’ space-facing port of the Harmony module. The Dragon will splash down west of Tampa off the Florida coast about 8:27pm EST, i.e, 6:57am Friday, in India.
The press note read, “Dragon will fire its thrusters to move a safe distance from the space station during the next 36 hours. On Wednesday, Jan. 13, Dragon will conduct a deorbit burn at 7:37 p.m. to begin its re-entry sequence into Earth’s atmosphere. Dragon is expected to splash down west of Tampa off the Florida coast about 8:27 p.m. The splashdown will not be broadcast”.
The Dragon capsule used for the mission contains double the powered locker availability of previous capsules, which allows for a significant increase in the research that can be carried back to Earth. Splashing down off the coast of Florida will enable “quick transportation” of the science aboard the capsule, delivering some science back into the hands of the researchers as soon as four to nine hours after splashdown. The shorter transportation timeframe will allow researchers to collect data with minimal loss of microgravity effect.
Dragon was launched back in December on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, arriving at the station just over 24 hours later and achieving the first autonomous docking of a US commercial cargo resupply spacecraft. The spacecraft had delivered microbes and crushed asteroid samples for a biomining study, rapid blood test results devices, and forty mice for bone and eye research among many other items in 6,400-pound (2,900-kilogram) shipment.
NASA had informed that the Dragon spacecraft was filled with supplies and payloads, including critical materials to directly support more than 250 science and research investigations that will occur during Expeditions 64 and 65. It added, that the Dragon’s trunk transported the Nanoracks Bishop Airlock to transfer payloads between the inside and outside of the station. The airlock delivered by Dragon helped the astronauts onboard ISS in robotics testing, and satellite deployment, meanwhile serving as a space toolbox.