SpaceX’s first upgraded “Cargo Dragon” spacecraft set off from the International Space Station Tuesday morning with 4,400-pound research specimens and other equipment, and headed to the Gulf of Mexico on the west coast of Florida on Wednesday night.
Bad weather in the disaster area prevented the Cargo Dragon from disembarking and returning to Earth on Monday.
The docking and landing marked the first return of the Cargo Dragon spacecraft near Florida, and it wrapped the first flight of SpaceX’s upgraded Dragon Donor ship, which was derived from the company’s Human Rating Crew Dragon vehicle.
The SpaceX rescue team will be on standby in the Gulf of Mexico west of Tampa at 8:27 p.m. EST on Wednesday (0227 GMT), preparing for a parachute assisted splash. According to a NASA spokesperson, the Dragon returned to Earth with 4,414 pounds (2,002 kilograms) of cargo.
The “Go Navigator” recovery vessel equipped by SpaceX technicians and engineers will lift the capsule onto its deck after splashing. The SpaceX team will unload time-critical scientific specimens, place them on a helicopter, and fly to the Kennedy Space Center overnight.
According to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the helicopter will arrive at Kennedy’s launch and landing facility, and the cargo will be trucked to a nearby space station processing facility.
Scientists there will receive specimens to begin analysis. NASA said that after a quick scan inside Kennedy’s SSPF, some of the materials will be shipped to research teams in California, Texas, Massachusetts, Japan, and other regions.
SpaceX’s first upgraded “Cargo Dragon” spacecraft set off from the International Space Station Tuesday morning with 4,400 pounds of research specimens and other equipment to splash water in the Gulf of Mexico on the west coast of Florida on Wednesday night. https://t.co/s6P0MTyNr1 pic.twitter.com/Vp4nZCEFjz
-Spaceflight Now (@SpaceflightNow) January 12, 2021
The goal of the upgraded “Cargo Dragon” is to splash off the coast of Florida, close to the Kennedy research facility and SpaceX’s “Dragon” repair yard at the Cape Canaveral Space Force station. The previous Dragon cargo flight ended with a landing in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Baja California.
When the scientific specimens returned to space, they were sent back to Kennedy so quickly, which brought them back to the space shuttle program, when the task was to transport the cargo directly to the Florida spaceport.
Kennedy Space Center Utilization Project Manager Jennifer Wahlberg said in a statement: “I am happy to finally see science come back here again because we can integrate these time-sensitive experiments faster than ever Bring it into the laboratory.” “In the space shuttle era, we were really proud of sending science to space and receiving it again on the runway. It’s great to be able to rejoin the process.”
According to NASA, the “Cargo Dragon Monday” homecoming experiment included live mice as part of the Rodent Study 23 investigation, which studied the function of the arteries, veins, and lymphatic structures of the eye as well as the retina before and after space flight. Variety.
Scientists are seeking insights about whether these changes affect vision. NASA says that at least 40% of astronauts will experience visual impairment during long space flights.
Jennifer Buheli, deputy chief scientist of the International Space Station Program at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, said: “Rodent Research 23 aims to start studying the gravity re-adaptation response of rodents as soon as possible, making it an ideal candidate for this flight.”
Stanford University researchers also conducted a biomedical experiment to study how microgravity affects cardiovascular cells. The experiment developed by Japanese scientists proved that human stem cells grow 3D organ buds in space.
Other experiments returning to Earth include a payload led by researchers at Texas State University to identify bacterial genes used in the growth of biofilms. This investigation investigated whether these biofilms would corrode stainless steel and evaluated the effectiveness of silver-based disinfectants to help designers of long-lived spacecraft in the future.
Materials from the demonstration of optical fiber production technology will also be used in the freight dragon. NASA said that scientists and engineers will examine the fiber optic materials made on the space station to see if they match the prediction that fibers produced in space are “much better than those produced on Earth.”
The internal volume of the upgraded “Cargo Dragon” spacecraft is larger than that of SpaceX’s first-generation “Dragon” cargo ship, which will fly the space station for the last time in 2020. Its dynamic locking capability is also twice that of the previous “Dragon” spacecraft, and can support up to 12 such spacecraft. The return of the locker to the earth adds the ability to bring back frozen and refrigerated samples.
“Using the previous “Dragon” spacecraft, it may take 48 hours to return the capsule to Long Beach, California from the time the capsule hits the waters of the Pacific Ocean. Then, we started distributing these samples in about four to five hours,” Kennedy Said Mary Walsh, head of the research integration office utilization flight. “Now, we will have the early return science and give it to the researchers only four to nine hours after the splash occurs.”
“The ability to quickly restore science is very important to space biology because we want to understand whether the impact on the orbit we are trying to measure is due to microgravity conditions or due to the pressure that participants or samples might see when landing,” NASA chief Space Station Project Scientist Kurt Costello said. “Therefore, getting those people to return to Cape really quickly and hand over to our scientists is a huge new capability.”
Before the “Cargo Dragon” returned to space, the automatic cargo compartment was unloaded from the space station at 9:05 a.m. Eastern Time (1405 GMT) on Tuesday. The new Dragon design can automatically dock and dock at the station, and the first-generation Dragon cargo ship is gripped by the station’s robotic arm.
The Cargo Dragon was launched from the Kennedy Space Center of NASA (Florida) on December 6, with the Falcon 9 rocket. On the second day, the space capsule arrived at the space station through a new docking port on the zenith (or upward) side of the “harmony” module that was automatically connected to the research outpost.
Cargo Dragon joined SpaceX’s Crew Dragon “Resilience” spacecraft docked at the space station. This is the first time that two SpaceX vehicles are working in the orbital laboratory at the same time.
The astronauts opened the hatch to the Cargo Dragon and began to carry out 6,000-pound objects and experiments, including a festive feast for the seven-person crew of the station.
SpaceX’s Crew Dragon “Resilience” capsule arrived at the space station on November 16th with astronauts Mike Hopkins, Victor Glover, Shannon Walker and Soichi Noguchi. The Crew Dragon disaster-resistant spacecraft is docked at the front end of the “Harmony” module.
Hopkins and his crew joined NASA astronauts Kate Rubins and Russian astronauts Sergei Regykov and Sergey Kud Svechikov, in Space station work, which makes the research center composed of seven members for the first time.
Since 2012, the “Cargo Dragon” mission is SpaceX’s 21st supply flight and has signed a contract with NASA to provide new female-friendly toilets, live rodents, and biological experiment support hardware for the research laboratory Spare parts and consumables were purchased, and an upgraded catalytic reactor water treatment system was provided for the laboratory.
The cargo mission also conducted an experiment called BioAsteroid to study how microorganisms can assist in the mining of substances on asteroids, and conduct investigations to help scientists understand more about how space flight affects cardiovascular cells and human brain organs, so as to gain insights into micro How gravity affects survival and life. The metabolism of brain cells.
The outer cargo compartment of the space capsule brought a new commercial airlock to the Nanoracks space station, a Houston-based company that plans to use the new facility to conduct experiments, process garbage and deploy small satellites.
According to SpaceX, Cargo Dragon’s pressurized cabin can be reused five times. The stress-free luggage is disposable, and every cargo dragon mission will have a new luggage flying.
Email the author.
Follow Stephen Clark on Twitter: @StephenClark1.