The International Space Station is set to release its Dragon cargo craft after the successful completion of its CRS-15 resupply mission. According to a recent NASA press release, the Dragon is targeting a Friday release with a splashdown in the Pacific Ocean.
Once the craft hits the water, it will take about two days for authorities to get the capsule back to shore and unload its scientific cargo.
If the weather holds, the plan is for the Dragon capsule to detach from the Harmony module of the International Space Station by around 6:30 a.m. Eastern. Then, it will use a number of “departure burns” to navigate away from the station. This will take a while, as SpaceX’s ground controllers will initiate its de-orbit burn until the late afternoon (almost eleven hours later).
The Dragon rocket launched and docked with the ISS about a month ago after carrying nearly 6,000 pounds of cargo through the atmosphere. It’s the 15th of 20 such missions that SpaceX will fly as part of its contract with NASA to keep the ISS astronauts fed and ensure the results of their scientific experiments get back to earth where they can be studied. As the Dragon makes its way back home, it’ll still have about 4,000 pounds of cargo.
Because of its reusability, the Dragon is a key plank of SpaceX’s plan to make space travel more economically feasible. It’s a plan that recently got a boost from members of Congress, after the House of Representatives voted to adopt a measure encouraging the US Air Force to consider reusability when weighing firms for contracts.
This is all part of a busy month for Space X, which on Thursday also completed a static fire test of its Falcon 9 in anticipation of an August 7 launch of the Merah Putih satellite.