SpaceX Supply Ship Docks At Space Station – Spaceflight Now

SpaceX Supply Ship Docks At Space Station – Spaceflight Now

SpaceX’s Dragon cargo ship during its rendezvous with the International Space Station on Sunday. Credit: NASA TV

A day after launching from Kennedy Space Center, SpaceX’s Dragon cargo capsule approached the International Space Station for an automated docking on Sunday with more than 7,700 pounds of supplies and experiments.

The Dragon supply ship docked autonomously with the zenith, or space-oriented, docking port on the space station’s Harmony module at 7:39 a.m. EST (1239 GMT) on Sunday to complete a 17-hour search of the complex. The cargo capsule was launched on Saturday at 2:20 pm EST (1920 GMT) on a Falcon 9 rocket.

The mission marks SpaceX’s 26th resupply flight since 2012 to deliver cargo to the space station and is the first flight of SpaceX’s newest Cargo Dragon capsule, designated Dragon C211. This is the last reusable Cargo Dragon spacecraft that SpaceX plans to build to meet NASA’s cargo transportation needs for the station through the 2030s.

The CRS-26 mission is packed with hardware, supplies and experiments for the space station and the seven-person crew living aboard the complex. The largest item in the payload is NASA’s second pair of new deployable solar panels to augment the space station’s power system.

NASA astronauts Nicole Mann and Josh Cassada aboard the space station monitored the Dragon spacecraft’s automated rendezvous, ready to send commands to the capsule to maintain its approach or abort the docking in the event of a problem The docking occurred as the space station complex rose more than 250 miles (400 kilometers) above the Pacific Ocean.

After docking on Sunday, space station astronauts will open hatches and begin unpacking cargo inside the pressurized compartment of the Dragon spacecraft.

Among the food inside: ice cream, spicy green beans, cranapple dessert, almond pumpkin pie, and corn for a late Thanksgiving feast.

Two new ISS Deployable Solar Units, or iROSA units, are packed inside Dragon’s spring-loaded unpressurized trunk to improve the space station’s power system. Astronauts from the station will venture outside the complex next month to help install and deploy the new deployment arrays, which will augment the power produced by the station’s original solar arrays. Existing solar array wings were launched on Space Shuttle missions between 2000 and 2009.

Built by Redwire, the solar arrays roll up like yoga mats during launch. The space station’s robotic arm will remove the coils from their mounting poles inside the Dragon spacecraft’s rear cargo bay and transfer them to the solar power armor attachment points on the left and right sides of the lab .

The pop-up solar panels will open to partially cover the existing arrays. This pair of iROSA units follows the launch of the first two in 2021. The last two deployed solar panels are scheduled to launch on a SpaceX resupply mission next year.

Other CRS-26 mission payloads include experiments to test the growth of dwarf tomatoes on the space station, a handheld portable microscope that will help astronauts collect medical images from their own blood samples, and a technology demonstration to collect data on the construction of flexible structures in space.

There are also eight CubeSats developed by teams from Brazil, the United States, Canada, Italy and Taiwan aboard the Dragon capsule. Astronauts will remove the small satellites from their cargo containers and place them at Japan’s Kibo laboratory to transfer them out of the station through an airlock. The CubeSats will be put into orbit using a Nanoracks deployment mechanism.

The Dragon spacecraft will remain docked at the space station for about a month and a half before leaving the research site in mid-January for a parachute-assisted splash off the coast of Florida.

Here’s a breakdown of the CRS-26 cargo manifest, provided by NASA:

• Total load: 7,777 pounds (3,528 kilograms)

  • 2,636 pounds (1,196 kilograms) unpressurized payloads (iROSA)
  • 2,341 pounds (1,062 kilograms) of crew supplies
  • 2,066 pounds (937 kilograms) of scientific research
  • 653 pounds (296 kilograms) of vehicle hardware
  • 55 pounds (25 kilograms) of spacewalk equipment
  • 26 pounds (12 kilograms) of computing resources

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Follow Stephen Clark on Twitter: @StephenClark1.

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