After just over a month of beingdocked at the International Space Station (ISS), SpaceX’s Cargo Dragon spacecraft is about to undock and return to Earth loaded with 5,200 pounds of experiments and other items.
Below, we have all you need to know about how to watch the Cargo Dragon begin its journey home on Monday, January 11.
The mission is notable as this is the first trip for SpaceX’s upgraded Cargo Dragon spacecraft after it replaced its predecessor in 2020. One of the most significant enhancements of this new version is its ability to dock autonomously with the space station, a feat it performed successfully for the first time when it arrived at the orbiting outpost on December 7 last year laden with 6,400 pounds of hardware, research investigations, and crew supplies.
Previously, the Cargo Dragon spacecraft had to be “captured” and attached to the ISS by astronauts operating the station’s robotic arm, called Canadarm2. SpaceX’s Crew Dragon is also capable of autonomous docking.
Another improvement to the spacecraft is an increase in powered locker space, enabling the return of twice as much research as before.
The return journey
NASA Television and the space agency’s website will broadcast Dragon’s departure vis a livestream starting at 6 a.m. PT on Monday, January 11. You can also watch it using the player embedded at the top of this page.
The upgraded Dragon spacecraft will perform its first undocking at 6:25 a.m. PT, with NASA astronaut Victor Glover monitoring the procedure from aboard the space station.
The SpaceX spacecraft will fire its thrusters to carry it a safe distance from the station’s space-facing port of the Harmony module before initiating a deorbit burn to start its reentry sequence into Earth’s atmosphere.
Assuming everything goes according to plan, Dragon should make its parachute-assisted splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean at around 6 p.m. PT, bringing with it research results that could provide new understanding of heart problems and eye functions in humans, as well as work geared toward long-duration spaceflights.
“Splashing down off the coast of Florida enables quick transportation of the science aboard the capsule to the agency’s Kennedy Space Center’s Space Station Processing Facility, and back into the hands of the researchers,” NASA said on its website, adding that the shorter transportation time frame “allows researchers to collect data with minimal loss of microgravity effects.”
Dragon’s deorbit burn and splashdown will not be streamed, NASA said.
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