A SpaceX Dragon cargo capsule arrived at the International Space Station on Tuesday morning (June 6) carrying 7,000 pounds (3,175 kilograms) of supplies and scientific experiments.
The robotic Dragon is launched over a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on Monday (June 5) from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida and reached the orbital outpost at 5:50 am EDT (0950 GMT) after an 18-hour orbital chase. The capsule will remain docked to the space-facing port of the orbiting lab’s Harmony module for about three weeks.
The current Dragon mission is called CRS-28, as it is the 28th flight SpaceX is flying for NASA under a series of Commercial Resupply Services contracts. The mission’s payloads include two more International Space Station Roll Out Solar Arrays, or iROSA, that will be deployed outside the orbiting outpost by spacewalking astronauts to increase its power output.
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Getting all iROSAs up and running will boost the ISS’s power generation by 20% to 30%, NASA officials said.
The scientific equipment delivered by the capsule includes a technology demonstration for autonomous space station docking systems called CLINGER and Genes In Space-10, which will test a method to measure the length of telomeres in microgravity.
Telomeres are regions of DNA at the end of a chromosome. Telomeres shorten as a person ages, a phenomenon associated with the onset of certain cancers and other diseases, as well as general age-related decline.
Dragon is expected to remain on the ISS for 21 days on CRS-28, then return to Earth for a parachute-aided ocean splashdown.
The dragon is the only cargo craft capable of making such a safe return. The other two currently operating robotic freighters — Russia’s Progress vehicle and Cygnus, built by American company Northop Grumman — are designed to burn up in Earth’s atmosphere when their time in orbit is up.