SpaceX has brought a Dragon capsule back to Earth, after successfully completing a second month-long stint at the International Space Station. The company shared an image Sunday of the craft after its return to terra firma, two days after its departure from the space station, before its planned handover to NASA to retrieve the cargo inside.
The capsule has played a vital role in transporting goods to and from the station, and future upgrades are set to ferry humans to and from Earth. The company’s 15th resupply mission involved the capsule lifting off from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at 5:42 a.m. Eastern time on June 29, on board a Falcon 9 booster. It reached the station on July 2 with a staggering 5,946 pounds of cargo, including Death Wish Coffee, an iPad, maple smoked salmon, and space gloves. The capsule also sent the Crew Interactive Mobile Companion A.I. robot, powered by IBM Watson, to assist with the crew’s work. In total, the cargo is aimed at assisting with 27 experiments.
The capsule returned with over 3,800 pounds of cargo, landing in the Pacific Ocean just southwest of Los Angeles. This is the fourth cargo Dragon capsule, with each one ranked for around three missions. The cargo designs are the only commercial capsules that have ever reflown, but the trunk always burns up upon re-entry. For this mission, the trunk burned a Naval Research Laboratory tool that studied the atmosphere’s structure.
The company is hard at work on the crew version of the Dragon, expected to take over from Russia’s Soyuz spacecraft as NASA’s means of getting astronauts to the space station. The agency announced last week that it expects SpaceX to complete an uncrewed test flight in November 2018, followed by a crewed flight in April 2019, with Boeing completing similar steps in a similar timescale.
SpaceX’s next launch is set to send a Merah Putih satellite into geostationary transfer orbit from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, with liftoff scheduled for 1:18 a.m. Eastern time on August 7. The Falcon 9 booster, previously used for the Bangabandhu satellite mission, will attempt to land on the Of Course I Still Love You droneship.