The SpaceX Dragon spacecraft launched last Friday and arrived at the International Space Station for its second trip yesterday, Sunday, Dec. 17. The spacecraft delivered over 2 tons of NASA’s supplies, just before Christmas. The astronauts used the robotic arm in order to grab the Dragon capsule onto the International Space Station, at 5:57 a.m. EST.
“It’s a great day to see Dragon back on ISS again,” the spacecraft communicator Leslie Ringo radioed the ISS from NASA’s Mission Control Center in Houston on Sunday.
“It’s a beautiful spacecraft and we’re looking forward to digging into it and getting some science on board,” Joe Acaba, a NASA astronaut answered from the station. Acaba helped his crewmate Mark Vende Hei, who managed to control the robotic arm when they had to capture the Dragon spacecraft.
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Sunday’s arrival means that this is the second delivery mission for the SpaceX Dragon, which previously visited the International Space Station in April 2015. This time, the SpaceX also launched using an already used rocket, the Falcon 9 rocket. The reason the company uses reusable rocket technology is in order to reduce the costs of the spaceflight.
In this mission, which is the 13th SpaceX supply mission for NASA, the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft delivered around 4,800 lbs of supplies and scientific equipment for astronauts located on the ISS. The spacecraft will remain at the space station until January. In mid-January, the spacecraft will return to Earth and land in the Pacific Ocean near the coast of Baja California. That way, SpaceX and NASA can gather the results of experiments and gear sent back to Earth.
The SpaceX Dragon spacecraft arrival meant an extremely busy day for the crew located at the ISS. The ISS is also expecting three new crew members to arrive with a Soyuz spacecraft hosting three astronauts. One is from NASA, Russia’s Roscosmos astronaut is the second, while the third astronaut belongs to the Japan Aerospace Explorational Agency (JAXA). The spacecraft took off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan in the early morning on Sunday, and is expected to arrive at the ISS on Tuesday.
All three astronauts, NASA’s Scott Tingle, Roscosmos’ Anton Shkaplerov, and JAXA’s Norishige Kanai, launched from Earth’s surface at 2:21 a.m. EST Sunday. While the journey takes several hours, astronauts will still spend nearly two days orbiting our planet. According to NASA’s statement on Sunday, after docking on Tuesday, the hatches between the Soyuz spacecraft and the ISS will be opened around 5 a.m. EST.