NASA’s SpaceX Dragon cargo freighter, loaded with approximately 5,000 pounds of scientific experiments and other cargo from the International Space Station, will depart Tuesday, July 6, bound for a splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean Thursday, July 8, completing the company’s 22nd commercial resupply services mission for NASA.
Ground controllers at SpaceX in Hawthorne, California, will command Dragon to undock from the space-facing port on the station’s Harmony module at 11 a.m., with NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough monitoring aboard the station. The cargo craft will physically separate from the station five minutes later before firing its thrusters to move a safe distance away prior to a deorbit burn that will begin its re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere. Dragon is expected to make its parachute-assisted splashdown around 12 a.m. Thursday, July 8.
Splashing down off the coast of Florida enables quick transportation of the science aboard the capsule to NASA’s Space Station Processing Facility at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, and back into the hands of the researchers. This shorter transportation timeframe allows researchers to collect data with minimal sample exposure to gravity.
Dragon launched June 3 on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy, arriving at the station a little less than 16 hours later. The spacecraft delivered more than 7,300 pounds of research investigations, crew supplies, and vehicle hardware to the orbiting outpost. Dragon’s external cargo “trunk” carried six new ISS Roll-Out Solar Arrays (iROSAs), two of which Expedition 65 crew members Kimbrough and Thomas Pesquet, an ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut, installed during three spacewalks June 16, 20, and 25.
Some of the scientific investigations Dragon will return to Earth include:
- Lyophilization-2 examines how gravity affects freeze-dried materials and could result in improved freeze-drying processes for pharmaceutical and other industries. Freeze-drying also has potential use for long-term storage of medications and other resources on future exploration missions.
- Molecular Muscle Experiment-2 tests a series of drugs to see whether they can improve health in space, possibly leading to new therapeutic targets for examination on Earth.
- Oral Biofilms in Space studies how gravity affects the structure, composition, and activity of oral bacteria in the presence of common oral care agents. Findings could support development of novel treatments to fight oral diseases such as cavities, gingivitis, and periodontitis.
Learn more about SpaceX missions for NASA at:
Rod is a blogger, writer, filmmaker, photographer, daydreamer who likes to cook. Rod produces and directs the web series, CUPIC: Diary of an Investigator. He is also the editor, producer and administrator of TNC Network.