A little while ago the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft was captured by the robotic arm Canadarm2 from the International Space Station. Commander Barry Wilmore, assisted by his colleague Cristoforetti, managed the operation and started moving the Dragon to the docking point of the Harmony module. The spacecraft was launched last Saturday.
The approach of the Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station follows a lengthy and delicate procedure. The safety of the Station is the top priority, therefore each small step of the Dragon is checked and if all goes well in the spacecraft’s position and velocity they proceed with the next step. The procedure was tested by the Dragon in its previous missions but must always be followed carefully because a component of the approach systems may not work properly.
Tomorrow, the International Space Station crew will open the Dragon spacecraft’s hatch and will start unloding its cargo. The Dragon remain docked with the Station for about a month. A series of experiments and other items to be brought back to Earth will be loaded on it, which is the only cargo spacecraft able to return to Earth intact.
The Dragon will leave the International Space Station with a total cargo of a bit more than 1,300 kg (almost 3,000 pounds). The CRS-5 mission will be completed with the descent into the Pacific Ocean, off the coast of California. So far, there were no problems and that’s a relief for everyone not only at SpaceX but also at NASA after the failure of the Cygnus spacecraft’s mission in October 2014. There was never a problem with the food, water and oxygen supplies for the crew but the loss of another spacecraft would’ve caused problems to the Station’s scientific activities.
For SpaceX last Saturday there was also an attempt to land the first stage on an automated platform called the autonomous spaceport drone ship. The target was relatively small but was hit, the problem is that the landing took place at excessive speed. The stage isn’t recoverable and the platform suffered some damage but nothing serious. Media reported many negative comments but it was an operation that’s still experimental. The result was better than previous tests so there’s progress and this is positive.