SpaceX performed the 21st Commercial Resupply Services (CRS-21) mission for NASA with an upgraded Dragon spacecraft this morning. “This is the first flight of the updated cargo version of Dragon, which is capable of carrying about 20 percent more volume than the previous version of Dragon and has double the amount of powered locker cargo capability,” SpaceX stated in a press release, “Dragon is now designed for up to five flights to and from the space station, and this cargo version of the spacecraft can stay on station more than twice as long as the previous version of Dragon,” the company wrote. The uncrewed CRS-21 mission is set to deliver over 6,400 pounds of cargo to the International Space Station (ISS). Today, December 6, at 11:17 a.m. EST, a thrice flown SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifted off for the fourth time from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, carrying the upgraded Dragon spacecraft on a 26-hour-long voyage to the orbiting laboratory.
The Falcon 9 first-stage rocket booster supporting the CRS-21 mission is identified as B1058. It previously launched three missions: SpaceX’s first crewed mission with NASA astronauts to the Space Station in May, the South Korean ANASIS-II mission in July, and the thirteenth Starlink mission in October. Soon after deploying Dragon to orbit today, the rocket booster returned from space for the fourth time. Approximately nine minutes after liftoff it landed on the “Of Course I Still Love You” droneship located in the Atlantic Ocean – marking the 68 landing of an orbital-class rocket booster! Now, B1058 can be used on a future mission. SpaceX engineers aim to reuse a particular first-stage booster at least ten times to significantly reduce the cost of spaceflight. As of today, SpaceX is the only aerospace company in the world capable of landing and reusing orbital-class rocket boosters.
Dragon will operate autonomously; It is scheduled to arrive at the space station tomorrow, December 7. The spacecraft will dock to the station’s Harmony module autonomously at about 1:30 p.m. EST, as NASA Astronauts Victor Glover and Kate Rubins supervise the operation from the ISS Lab. Dragon will deliver a variety of important supplies, equipment, and materials that are needed to perform a variety of science research and experiments that will be conducted in microgravity.
When the CRS-21 Dragon capsule arrives to the Space Station there will be two SpaceX spacecraft docked to the ISS Harmony module for the first time in history. The Crew Dragon Resilience spacecraft that ferried Crew-1 astronauts to the station in November is currently docked, it will remain for six-months. The CRS-21 spacecraft will remain docked for around thirty days before returning to Earth with cargo for scientists on the ground. You can watch today’s mission in the video below, courtesy of NASA Television.
WATCH SPACEX CRS-21 MISSION!
Featured Image Source: NASA Television