The Dragon spacecraft is secured before being transported back to a SpaceX facility.
May 31, 2012. (SpaceX)

The Importance of Dragon’s Cargo Return Capability

Posted by Doug Messier on October 11, 2012, at 6:22 am

By Lori Keith
NASA’s Johnson Space Center

While the first NASA Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) flight to the International Space Station is historic, the delivery and more importantly the return of science samples is pivotal. Since the retirement of the shuttles, the only return capability available from the space station was via the Russian Soyuz vehicle, with cold stowage even more limited — but not anymore. Space Exploration Technologies Corp., or SpaceX, is now able to provide this service, as well.

SpaceX CRS-1 mission, using the Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon cargo spacecraft, launched Oct. 7, with a planned station docking date of Oct. 10. This is the first of 12 contracted flights to resupply the station, providing a new U.S. capability to deliver and return cargo — including science investigations, particularly those that require cold stowage. A successful demonstration flight to the station completed in May.

Dragon carries approximately 882 pounds of cargo, including equipment and supplies for the 166 planned investigations for the Expedition 33 timeframe; 63 of these are new investigations. These supplies will support investigations for multiple research disciplines.

Dragon will return to Earth with close to 866 pounds of scientific supplies — including samples from research involving human health, biotechnology, and materials research, along with educational investigations and approximately 518 pounds of station hardware. Though resupply is important, significant science sample return capability is exciting for the research community.

Read more: The Importance of Dragon’s Cargo Return Capability | Parabolic Arc.

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