Space

June 1, 2012

Dragon docks with space station, unloads cargo

by Raphael Jaffe
Staff Writer

Dragon approaching the International Space Station.

In the four days following its launch, the Dragon cargo carrier spacecraft followed a complex set of maneuvers, and was allowed to dock at the International Space Station May 25.

“Today marks another critical step in the future of American spaceflight,” NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said. “Now that a U.S. company has proven its ability to resupply the space station, it opens a new frontier for commercial opportunities in space – and new job creation opportunities right here in the U.S. By handing off space station transportation to the private sector, NASA is freed up to carry out the really hard work of sending astronauts farther into the solar system than ever before. The Obama Administration has set us on an ambitious path forward and the NASA and SpaceX teams are proving they are up to the task.”

SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft is held by the Space Station’s robotic arm before attaching to the station.

The next day, May 26, the hatches between Dragon and the ISS Harmony module were opened, and the unload operation for the historic first ever cargo carried to the ISS by a commercial firm was started.

Dragon, built, launched and controlled by SpaceX has thus far performed perfectly. Return cargo is being placed on board at press time, and the hatches are scheduled to be closed May 30. On May 31, the Expedition 31 crew members will detach Dragon from Harmony; maneuver it to a 33-foot release point and un-grapple the capsule. Dragon will de-orbit approximately four hours after leaving the station, taking about 30 minutes to re-enter Earth’s atmosphere and landing in the Pacific Ocean about 250 miles west of Southern California.

After launch, the Dragon spacecraft performed these scheduled steps. Its solar arrays were deployed, to provide power to the craft. The covering doors of the proximity sensors were opened.

The Absolute GPS system was checked and found to be working well. Pulsed and full abort operations were also demonstrated. The free drift condition was then demonstrated. Free drift is the capsule status when it is grappled by the ISS. Proximity operations sensors were then checked. All these steps were monitored by NASA which gave permission for the docking when they were all successfully completed.

After its trajectory brought it within range, Dragon’s thrusters fired, bringing the vehicle to 2.4 kilometers below the space station. The vehicle completed two key tests at that distance. Dragon demonstrated its Relative GPS and established a communications link with the ISS. The COTS UHF Communication Unit was activated. The ISS portion of CUCU had been placed onboard during one of the last shuttle missions to ISS. The communication link was verified having the station astronauts turn on the Dragon strobe light.

This image of the inside of the Dragon module was taken by European Space Agency astronaut Andre Kuipers.

Following these tests, the Dragon capsule was cleared by NASA to approach the station May 25. Dragon then performed a series of intricate test maneuvers as it approached the orbiting laboratory. These maneuvers were required to demonstrate the maneuvering and abort capability of Dragon prior to approaching and moving into a 65-foot “berthing box” where it was grappled by NASA astronaut Don Pettit using the station’s robotic arm at 9:56 a.m., EDT.

European Space Agency astronaut Andre Kuipers installed the capsule on the bottom of the station’s Harmony node at 11:52 a.m.

NASA astronaut Joe Acaba completed berthing operations by bolting the Dragon to Harmony at 12:02 p.m.

European Space Agency astronaut Andre Kuipers, Expedition 31 flight engineer, is shown inside the freshly opened SpaceX Dragon spacecraft.

May 26, at 5:53 a.m., astronauts opened the hatches. Pettit opened the hatch and he and Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko, station commander, entered the Dragon for initial inspections. They were joined at the entrance of the hatch by Kuipers and Russian cosmonaut Gennady Padalka. The operation went smoothly and was ahead of schedule. Dragon’s interior looked good and Pettit remarked on the vehicle’s new car smell.

“Congratulations to the SpaceX and NASA teams,” said William Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate at the agency’s headquarters in Washington. “There is no limit to what can be accomplished with hard work and preparation. This activity will help the space station reach its full research potential and open up space-based research to a larger group of researchers. There is still critical work left in this test flight. Dragon-attached operations and cargo return are challenging and yet to be accomplished.”

The Dragon capsule delivered 1,014 pounds of supplies to the station, which included non-critical experiments, food, clothing and technology items. After off loading the cargo, Dragon was then loaded with 1,367 pounds of hardware and cargo no longer needed aboard the station in preparation for the spacecraft’s return to Earth. Dragon and station hatches are scheduled to be closed May 30.

May 31, the Expedition 31 crew members will detach Dragon from Harmony; maneuver it to a 33-foot release point and un-grapple the capsule. Dragon will de-orbit approximately four hours after leaving the station. It will take about 30 minutes to re-enter Earth’s atmosphere and land in the Pacific Ocean about 250 miles west of southern California. SpaceX has a recovery ship stationed in the landing area.

“The investments made by the United States to stimulate the commercial space industry are paying off,” said Philip McAlister, director for Commercial Spaceflight Development at NASA Headquarters. “SpaceX achieved what until now was only possible by a few governments, and the company did it with relatively modest funding from the government.”




All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


 
 

 

Headlines January 23, 2015

News: Two Marines identified in deadly California helo crash - Two Marine Corps officers killed when their helicopter crashed during a training exercise in the Southern California desert were remembered Jan. 25 as talented pilots. Greek F-16 crashes in Spain during NATO exercise - Ten people died Jan. 26 after a Greek air force F-16 jet crashed...
 
 

News Briefs January 26, 2015

Navy wants to increase use of sonar-emitting buoys The U.S. Navy is seeking permits to expand sonar and other training exercises off the Pacific Coast, a proposal raising concerns from animal advocates who say that more sonar-emitting buoys would harm whales. The Navy now wants to deploy up to 720 sonobuoys about 12 miles off...
 
 
Air National Guard photograph by SSgt. Annie Edwards

ANG conducts air refueling training with NATO allies in Germany

Air National Guard photograph by SSgt. Annie Edwards A NATO E-3A AWACS aircraft approaches a Utah Air National Guard KC-135R Stratotanker for air refueling during a training flight over Germany on Jan. 13, 2015. Nearly 30 airme...
 

 
Air Force photograph by SrA. Armando A. Schwier-Morales

Ramstein Airmen train with French air force

Air Force photograph by SrA. Armando A. Schwier-Morales Two U.S. Air Force pilots and a French air force navigator discuss the route to the drop zone during a simulated low-level drop Jan. 21, 2015, at Orleans – Bricy Air...
 
 

Marines receive first F-35C Lightning II carrier variant

The first F-35C Lightning II, carrier variant, for the U.S. Marine Corps touched-down on the flight line at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., Jan. 13, from the Lockheed Martin plant in Fort Worth, Texas, to begin training in support of carrier-based operations. U.S. Marine Lt. Col. J.T. Ryan, Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 501 detachment commander...
 
 

VA announces single regional framework under MyVA initiative

The Department of Veterans Affairs announced Jan. 26 that it is taking the first steps under the MyVA initiative to realign its many organizational maps into one map with five regions to better serve Veterans. The new regions under the MyVA alignment will allow VA to begin the process of integrating disparate organizational boundaries into...
 




0 Comments


Be the first to comment!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>