Saturday, April 18, 2015

SpaceX's Dragon Spacecraft Arrives at Space Station

Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti, operating the space station’s robot arm, captured a SpaceX Dragon cargo ship early Friday after a three-day rendezvous. Among the 2 tons of supplies and equipment on board: an espresso maker, supplied by Italy. In a post-capture tweet, Cristoforetti, a science fiction fan, channeled Captain Janeway of the "Star Trek: Voyager" TV series, saying "there’s coffee in that nebula.” (Credit: NASA TV)

A SpaceX Dragon cargo ship loaded with more than two tons of equipment and supplies rendezvoused with the International Space Station early Friday and was captured at 6:55 a.m. EDT by Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti, with the assistance of Expedition 43 Commander Terry Virts of NASA, using the lab's robot arm, to wrap up a smooth three-day rendezvous. A few minutes later, after putting on a "Star Trek: Voyager" tunic, Cristoforetti channeled the TV show's Captain Janeway, tweeting "There’s coffee in that nebula … ehm, I mean… in that #Dragon." Packed inside the supply capsule, along with nearly 4,400 pounds of equipment, research gear and supplies, was an Italian-built espresso machine, a welcome addition to the crew's kitchen.

“Capture confirmed,” said Dan Huot, NASA TV’s commentator for Friday’s arrival sequence. “The sixth Dragon resupply spacecraft captured by the crew of Expedition 43 — Samantha Cristoforetti at the controls — the Dragon and its 4,300 pounds of cargo now in the hands of the International Space Station.”

The link-up over the Pacific Ocean marked the sixth operational cargo delivery by SpaceX since 2012. NASA and SpaceX have a contract worth approximately $2 billion for 15 resupply missions through the end of 2017.

“Houston, capture is complete,” Virts radioed. “We are go for post-capture reconfiguration. Samantha did a perfect job capturing Dragon.”

Virts and Cristoforetti tracked the Dragon’s final approach from the space station’s cupola module, a small room perched on the Earth-facing side of the complex with panoramic windows offering good views of the planet and visiting vehicles.

Cristoforetti sent down her thanks a few moments after snaring the Dragon spacecraft with the robot arm.

The Canadarm 2 reaches out to grapple the SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft and prepare it to be pulled into its port on the International Space Station. Credit: NASA
The Canadarm 2 reaches out to grapple the SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft and prepare it to be pulled into its port on the International Space Station. Credit: NASA

“I just want to say thank you to the folks at SpaceX and you guys in Houston,” Cristoforetti told mission control. “It’s been just amazing watching the launch, and knowing it was heading our way, and sure enough it came knocking at our door. It was steady as a rock, and we’re just very, very happy to have it here.”

The station crew opened hatches to the Dragon early Saturday to begin unloading research gear, supplies and other equipment, including an espresso maker supplied by Italy.

NASA says the cargo load will support 40 scientific investigations.

The Dragon will remain attached to the station for a bit more than a month. By the time it departs in late May, the station crew will have repacked the capsule with more than 3,000 pounds of research samples, no-longer-needed equipment and trash. The Dragon is the only cargo ship currently flying to the station that is capable of bringing material back to Earth.

A Russian resupply ship is targeted to launch and dock to the space station in less than two weeks. The ISS Progress 59 will blast off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome April 28 at 3:09 p.m. and dock to the Poisk module less than six hours later.

The next SpaceX resupply launch is due June 19 at approximately 1:51 p.m. EDT (1751 GMT).

1 comment:

  1. I love Sam's photo. She is a genius. Thanks, for all of us, thank you very much!!