The first stage then detached, returned to the lower atmosphere, and landed safely on SpaceX’s new autonomous droneship (dubbed “A Shortfall of Gravitas”) at sea. According to a SpaceX Dragon mission management director who spoke to CBS News, the droneship was designed to independently travel to position, receive and secure the rocket, and travel back to port for offloading. For this launch, the droneship was towed to the touchdown point, but in the future, it will recover rockets on its own.
Eleven minutes and 45 seconds after liftoff, the Falcon’s second stage caught preliminary orbit and released the Dragon cargo ship, which was planned to dock at the ISS at 11 a.m. the same day. Astronaut Shane Kimbrough confirmed via Twitter at 12:32 p.m. that the Dragon had reached the ISS safe and sound with plenty of “goodies” aboard.
SpaceX’s Dragon has made more than 20 journeys to the ISS, but the cargo it brought with it on this trip is particularly delightful. Part of its 1,058 pounds of supplies includes fresh fruit, like lemons, avocados, and cherry tomatoes. With 2,305 pounds of new science gear, the teams aboard the ISS will be able to investigate the mitigation of bone deterioration in weightlessness and space’s long-term effect on a number of building materials, among other experiments. In an effort to build interest in STEM among girls and women, a troop of Girl Scouts was able to load up experiments focusing on how produce and brine shrimp can be grown as food sources in space. The Dragon also carried with it almost 1,000 pounds of equipment and extra parts.
When the Dragon returns to Earth, it will bring along equipment and high-resolution camera footage from a spacewalk planned for September 12. The spacewalk was originally planned for the end of August, but one of the astronauts, NASA’s Mark Vande Hei, developed a pinched nerve and had to postpone. French astronaut Thomas Pesquet will now be stepping in for Vande Hei.
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