On Tuesday afternoon a SpaceX Dragon capsule splashed down in the Pacific Ocean near Long Beach, California, after completing its third mission …
The capsule launched into its third trip to space on July 25 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Carried by a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, it reached the space station two days later as they floated above southern Chile on July 27, according to a SpaceXpress release. The successful rendezvous marked SpaceX‘s eighteenth Commercial Resupply Services mission to the flying laboratory.
Before setting the new record, Dragon previously broke ground as the first commercial vehicle to dock with the ISS. SpaceX, a pet project of Tesla founder Elon Musk, is a leader in the blossoming for-profit space exploration industry.
Among the cargo returning aboard the Dragon capsule was a robot called CIMON, a “smart speaker” built to assist astronauts in their research, kind of like an advanced Amazon Alexa. Here on Earth, NASA will now examine the returning cargo. The bounty in Dragon’s cargo hold also includes the results of experiments growing moss in microgravity environments and the findings of NASA’s Goodyear tire investigation, which looks at the effects of gravity on silica.
Experiments on tires in the sky could have real impacts here on earth. As NASA explained in a statement on the Dragon splashdown, “A better understanding of silica morphology and the relationship between silica structure and its properties could provide improvements for increased fuel efficiency, which would reduce transportation costs and help to protect Earth’s environment.”
On the other side of the stratosphere, Dragon is reducing costs and expanding possibilities in space travel.
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Two Earth-facing ports, one on Harmony and the other on the central Unity module, are used to berth visiting cargo ships built by SpaceX, Northrop …
Two NASA astronauts floated outside the International Space Station early Wednesday and helped attach a second docking port for commercial crew ships being built by Boeing and SpaceX. They also routed and connected cables to expand the lab’s external wireless network and provide backup power to the station’s robot arm.
Floating in the station’s Quest airlock, astronauts Nick Hague and Drew Morgan switched their suits to battery power at 08:27 a.m. EDT to officially begin the 218th space station assembly and maintenance excursion since construction began in 1998.
The new international docking adapter, or IDA, was launched to the station last month aboard a SpaceX Dragon cargo ship. The lab’s robot arm pulled the docking mechanism out of the Dragon’s trunk section earlier this week and positioned it directly atop a tunnel-like pressurized mating adaptor extending from Harmony’s upper port.
Working with electrical cables that were routed three years ago during two earlier spacewalks, Hague and Morgan connected the IDA to station power, allowing astronaut Christina Koch, working inside Harmony, to send commands driving internal hooks to close.
After flight controllers confirmed the $22.5 million IDA was firmly locked in place atop the PMA, the spacewalkers installed wiring to expand the lab’s external wireless network and connected a jumper routing backup power to the robot arm.
The previously routed IDA cables “baked in the sun and had UV (ultraviolet radiation) and AO (atomic oxygen) exposure, so we expect them to be very difficult to manipulate and route,” said Alex Kanelakos, the lead spacewalk officer at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. “This is mostly due to the fact that they’ll be stiff and want to retain the coiled shape.”
As it turned out, the spacewalkers had no major problems getting the cables connected.
“And Nick, while you’re in transit, I have to tell you three lovely ladies have come in, one of which happens to be your mother, and has made delicious food for everybody,” astronaut Mike Barratt radioed at one point from mission control.
“I heard she was busy in the kitchen yesterday,” Hague replied. “I hope everyone enjoys it. I’m jealous.”
“Well, we have a certain jealousy of what you guys are doing as well. So I’d say it’s an even trade.”
Hague and Morgan finished their tasks on time and returned to the airlock, ending the 6-hour 32-minute spacewalk at 1:59 p.m. It was the fifth station outing so far this year, the third for Hague and the first for Morgan. Total space station EVA time now stands at 1,367 hours and 26 minutes, or 57 days.
The U.S. segment of the space station features four ports where visiting vehicles can either dock on their own or be berthed by the lab’s robot arm. The Russian segment also features four ports that are used by unpiloted Progress cargo craft and Soyuz crew ferry ships.
Space shuttles docked at the front end of the Harmony module, and that port already has been equipped with a Boeing-built international docking adapter that can accommodate either SpaceX’s Crew Dragon ferry ship or Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner.
Two Earth-facing ports, one on Harmony and the other on the central Unity module, are used to berth visiting cargo ships built by SpaceX, Northrop Grumman and JAXA, the Japanese space agency. The cargo ships are pulled in for berthing by the station’s robot arm and those ports do not require the capture mechanisms in an IDA.
NASA launched the first IDA aboard a SpaceX Dragon cargo ship in June 2015, but its Falcon 9 rocket suffered a catastrophic failure on the way to orbit, destroying the Dragon and its payload. IDA-2 was successfully launched later and installed on Harmony’s forward port. IDA-3, the subject of Wednesday’s spacewalk, is a replacement for the one that was lost in 2015.
“It really is creating the second docking port for not only commercial crew vehicles, but one of our cargo vehicles will be docking there in the not too distant future,” said Kirk Shireman, space station program manager at the Johnson Space Center. “It’s really important we have this additional capability.”
Boeing hopes to launch its Starliner capsule on an unpiloted test flight in the October timeframe, followed by a test flight with three crew members aboard before the end of the year. SpaceX launched a Crew Dragon spacecraft on a successful unpiloted flight to the station in March, but the company is still recovering from an April test failure and it’s not known when its first crewed mission might get off the ground.
But the initial flights will dock at the station’s forward port. Later, the crew ships and SpaceX’s second-generation Dragon cargo craft will begin using the upper port as well. Shireman said having two ports with active docking mechanisms will allow NASA to make sure U.S. astronauts are always on board the space station.
“It really allows us to make sure we have people on board all the time,” he said. “That’s number one. Number two is, at least one of our cargo vehicles will come and dock (at an IDA). So you have to have an open port.
“And then finally, NASA’s got this big initiative to do all kinds of commercial activities. One of them is private astronaut missions. So we expect that other private vehicles will come up and bring visitors to the ISS on that docking port. So we really need to have this capability.”
SpaceX’s 18th NASA-contracted Dragon resupply mission rendezvoused successfully with the International Space Station (ISS) July 27, maneuvering …
SpaceX’s 18th NASA-contracted Dragon resupply mission rendezvoused successfully with the International Space Station (ISS) July 27, maneuvering close enough for U.S. crew members Nick Hague and Christina Koch to command a grapple of the capsule and its 5,000-lb. cargo with the orbiting lab’s 58-ft.-long Canadian robot arm at 9:11 a.m. EDT.The spacecraft was launched late July 25 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida (CCAFS), to the Earth-facing port on the …
A SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft has delivered the second commercial crew docking port and 5,000lb of science investigations and supplies for the International Space Station.
Launched on a Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, US, the spacecraft arrived at the orbiting laboratory.
The Dragon cargo spacecraft will join three other spacecraft currently at the International Space Station.
One of the key features in Dragon’s unpressurised cargo section is the International Docking Adapter-3 (IDA-3).
According to Nasa, flight controllers at mission control in Houston will use the robotic arm to extract IDA-3 from Dragon and position it over Pressurized Mating Adapter-3, on the space-facing side of the Harmony module.
Prior to the final installation by the astronauts, the docking port will be moved into position remotely by robotics flight control teams from Nasa and the Canadian Space Agency.
Both installed in 2016, the IDA-3 and IDA-2 provide an automated docking system for future spacecraft, including upcoming commercial spacecraft to transport astronauts through contracts with Nasa.
The recent delivery is the 18th cargo flight of SpaceX to the space station and was delivered as part of a commercial resupply services contract with Nasa. It supports new and existing investigations.
At the space station, Nasa is conducting research in fields such as biology, physics, and materials science.
Nasa said in a statement: “Nasa’s research and development work aboard the space station contributes to the agency’s deep space exploration plans, including returning astronauts to the Moon’s surface in five years and preparing to send humans to Mars.”
SpaceX designed and manufactured the Falcon Heavy, a partially reusable heavy-lift launch vehicle. It is derived from the Falcon 9 vehicle and features a strengthened Falcon 9 first stage as the centre core with two additional first stages as strap-on boosters.
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