SpaceX’s Dragon completes record-setting third Space Station resupply mission – gpgmail


A SpaceX Dragon capsule that set down in the Pacific Ocean on Tuesday after having been docked at the International Space Station since late July became the first such vehicle to do three of those trips. SpaceX uses its Dragon cargo capsule to ferry experiment materials, supplies and more to and from the ISS, and it also refurbishes and reflies these capsules when possible as part of its ongoing mission to make spaceflight more reusable, and therefore more economical.

After it splashed down yesterday, SpaceX recovered the capsule from the ocean and returned it to shore. The vehicle is loaded with return cargo from the ISS, with almost 2,700 lbs of materials and results from experiments, which NASA staff on the ground will now examine and study. Dragon carried over 5,000 lbs of stuff to the Space Station, and over half of that was related to science and research missions. One of the return cargo items is actually a spherical robot called CIMON, and is basically a space-based smart speaker companion.

CIMON, an AI companion robot that spent time on the ISS before returning aboard SpaceX’s Dragon capsule.

SpaceX’s cargo Dragon is well-suited for carrying sensitive materials back to Earth because it remains intact through re-entry, but the company’s next version, Crew Dragon, will hope to return astronauts as well as supplies and objects when it begins operation, hopefully with initial crewed flights either late this year or next.


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Second docking adapter for commercial crew vehicles installed on International Space Station – gpgmail


The International Space Station is now more than ready for crew-carrying spacecraft flown by commercial companies to pay it a visit: The second planned International Dock Adapter (IDA) was installed on the Space Station during a spacewalk by NASA astronauts Nick Hague and Andrew Morgan earlier today.

The dock adapter, actually IDA-3 since the first IDA was lost during the SpaceX launch failure of its CRS-7 mission on June 28, 2015. IDA-2, which was intended to be the second installed on ISS, instead became the first and was delivered in July 2016 during the SpaceX CRS-9 resupply mission.

IDA-2 has already proven effective, too: It received its first docking vehicle on March 3 of this year, when SpaceX’s Crew Dragon Demo-1 test vehicle used the automated docking procedure designed for this adapter to demonstrate how it will work eventually when crew are on board.

IDA-3 is the second working dock adapter that uses this automated procedure, which makes it so that vehicles arriving at the ISS don’t have to be caught and guided in manually by astronauts with the help of the station’s Canadarm2 robotic arm. The automated procedure is designed as an industry standard of sorts, and should mean that any commercial crew craft, from SpaceX’s Crew Dragon, to Boeing’s CST-100, and any other potential future craft, can easily and automatically dock with the ISS to transfer over passengers and cargo.

Boeing is the company that was contracted to design and build these docking adapters. Each weight about 1,150 lbs and, they’re about 42-inches hight and 63-inches wide, which means it’s a bit of a tight squeeze for crew to come through (these aren’t big step-through passageways like you sometimes see in movies).

Having both the IDAs installed on the Space Station is key milestone in the commercial crew program, but there are still plenty of hurdles left to clear – including the first test flights of commercial Crew vehicles with astronauts on board.


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Watch live as NASA astronauts spacewalk to install a new automated docking ring on the ISS – gpgmail


NASA astronauts Nick Hague and Andrew Morgan are setting out today to perform the installation of a new International Docking Adapter (IDA) on the International Space Station that will provide another way for futuer crew craft flown by commercial providers to bring astronauts to the orbital research platform.

This is the second IDA to be installed in the ISS, and the actual spacewalk itself is set to happen at 8:20 AM ET, with astronauts spending the time until then getting all suited up. This docking adapter came up on SpaceX’s CRS-18 resupply mission, which went up in July. The adapter will provide automated docking procedures for a number of future crew spacecraft, including Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner and the SpaceX Crew Dragon, and it’s a standard that’s intended to be used with any other commercial craft to be developed with the aim of reaching the ISS in future, too.

The two IDAs and their use are a big part of NASA’s plan to commercialize the ISS and essentially open the platform for business, with the aim of gaining private sector support for both its use and the development of an eventual successor, since the existing ISS is actually quite a bit past its intended mission lifespan.


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NASA and SpaceX practice Crew Dragon evacuation procedure with astronaut recovery vessel – gpgmail


NASA and SpaceX continue their joint preparations for the eventually astronaut crew missions that SpaceX will fly for the agency, with a test of the emergency evacuation procedure for SpaceX’s GO Searcher seaborne ship. The ship is intended to be used to recover spacecraft and astronauts in an actual mission scenario, and the rehearsals this week are a key part of ensuring mission readiness before an actual crewed SpaceX mission.

Photos from the dress rehearsal, which is the first coordinated end-to-end practice run involving the full NASA and SpaceX mission teams working in concert, saw NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken don SpaceX’s fancy new crew suits and mimic a situation where they needed to be removed from the returned Crew Dragon spacecraft and taken to Cape Canaveral Air Force Station from the GO Searcher by helicopter.

By all accounts, this was a successful exercise and seems to have left parties on both sides happy with the results. Check out photos released by NASA of the dry run below.

SpaceX and NASA continue to work towards a goal of launching Crew Dragon’s first actual crewed flight this year, though they’ve encountered setbacks that make that potentially impossible, including the explosion of a Crew Dragon test vehicle during a static test fire in April.


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SpaceX launches ISS mission using twice-flown Dragon for the first time – TechCrunch


SpaceX has launched CRS-18, the 18th commercial resupply mission it has flown for NASA to deliver experiment, research and supply materials to the International Space Station. This mission’s cargo included IDA-3, the second automated docking ring set to be installed on the ISS, which will enable autonomous docking capabilities for future commercial spacecraft visiting the station with both crew and cargo on board. CRS-18 took off from Cape Canaveral in Florida at 6:01 PM ET (3:01 PM PT) on Thursday, after an attempt Wednesday was scrubbed due to weather.

There are around 5,000 lbs of cargo on board the Dragon launched for this mission. CRS-18 also carried a research mission into engineering organic tissue for use in 3D bioprinting from a company called Techshot, as well as experiments in tire material manufacturing from Goodyear. There’s even Nickelodeon’s signature green slime (yes, the slime you’re thinking of), which is being sent up care of the ISS U.S. National Laboratory to help astronauts educate students on how fluid operates in microgravity environments.

SpaceX previously flew the Falcon 9 first-stage rocket booster used on this mission just two months ago for the last ISS resupply mission, CRS-17. That’s a quick turnaround for one of its refurbished rockets, and another sign that it’s making good progress in its goal of achieving fully reusable launch capabilities. The Dragon cargo capsule used for this mission also flew before — twice, including for CRS-6 in April, 2015 and once again in December 2017 for CRS-13.

The landing of the Falcon 9 from CRS-18, sped up 2X.

This launch included a recovery attempt for the Falcon 9, too, and it returned and landed as planned at the company’s LZ-1 landing zone at Cape Canaveral Air Force base. The first-stage booster separated from the second-stage and Dragon craft as planned, and then returned to Earth, landing successfully after a controlled descent. This was SpaceX’s 44th successful recovery of a Falcon 9 first-stage after launch.

Next up for the Dragon capsule is for it to dock with the ISS, which is set to happen on Saturday. It’ll then have its cargo unloaded by the astronauts on board the station, and receive 3,300 lbs of return cargo, which it’ll bring back to Earth with a return trip that’ll conclude with a splashdown in the Pacific Ocean.



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Watch SpaceX launch a twice-flown Dragon capsule for its 18th ISS mission live – gpgmail


Let’s try this again: SpaceX is looking to launch its 18th International Space Station (ISS) resupply mission on Thursday at 6:01 PM ET (3:01 PM PT), a day after it tried to do so a first time. The initial attempt was scrubbed at the last minute due to weather conditions on the launch range in Florida at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, but there’s a backup window today, so Elon’s rocket company will try again. The stream above will begin about 15 minutes beforehand.

CRS-18 will send to the ISS a Dragon cargo capsule with 5,000 lbs of experiment materials, supplies and other cargo including a new automated docking sleeve. This mission is one of the last in SpaceX’s current ISS resupply contract, which covers 20 total engagements — but NASA and SpaceX essentially re-upped for a second batch through 2024 as part of a new contract signed in 2016.

The Dragon cargo craft used on this mission has actually flown two previous ISS resupply missions, and will be the first to manage a third should this trip go as planned. It’ll rendezvous with the ISS in a few days, and be unloaded by astronauts and re-loaded with return cargo before detaching from the ISS and returning to Earth to splash down in the Pacific Ocean for recovery. Dragon will launch aboard a Falcon 9 first-stage booster that was used just a couple of months ago for the most recent CRS mission.


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