Monday, March 20, 2017

CRS-10 Dragon Unberthed, Recovered in Pacific Ocean

The SpaceX Dragon is pictured seconds before splashing down in the Pacific Ocean. Photo Credit: SpaceX

The 10th SpaceX Dragon spacecraft to visit the International Space Station (ISS) left the outpost on March 19, 2017, and fell back to Earth. The capsule splashed down in the Pacific Ocean at 7:46 a.m. PDT (14:46 GMT) and was recovered off the coast of Baja California.

Having been attached to the station for a month, the CRS-10 Dragon was unberthed by the robotic Canadarm2. Expedition 50 Commander Shane Kimbrough and Flight Engineer Thomas Pesquet were at the controls on the robotic workstation inside the outposts Cupola window a couple hours later to give the command to release the spacecraft at 5:11 a.m. EDT (09:11 GMT).

After the spacecraft was released, a number of commands were executed to safely move Dragon away from the outpost including a short firing of the Draco thrusters a couple minutes after separation and another some 90 seconds later to push the capsule outside the station’s “Keep-Out Sphere” – an area of about 656 feet (200 meters) around the complex.

A third departure burn moved Dragon away from the vicinity of the outpost to prepare the vehicle for its 10-minute deorbit burn. That occurred just after 9 a.m. EDT (13:00 GMT).

Once the burn was complete, the trunk section, which will not be recovered, was separated. Entry interface for Dragon took place less than 30 minutes later with a splashdown in the Pacific Ocean not long after that.

Pesquet tweeted: “Today we said [goodbye] to #Dragon! She is taking part of us back to [the] ground with her – important scientific samples, some from the crew!”

While the spacecraft brought up 5,500 pounds (2,500 kilograms) of supplies when it launched back on Feb. 19, 2017, Dragon is able to return cargo as well.

Some 5,400 pounds (2,500 kilograms) of cargo, which includes samples from human and animal research, external payloads as well as items related to biology, biotechnology, physical science, and educational studies.

The CRS-10 Dragon will be returned to the Port of Los Angeles where some of the cargo will be removed and returned to NASA immediately. The rest of the onboard contents will be removed once the spacecraft arrives at SpaceX’s test facility in McGregor, Texas.

The next Dragon to be launched to the ISS will be CRS-11. That is expected to be the first cargo capsule to be reused. Re-flying these spacecraft will allow SpaceX to scale back on the “Dragon 1” production line and shift focus toward the Crew Dragon spacecraft, sometimes called “Dragon 2”.

Written by: Derek Richardson
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