SpaceX Dragon’s Weather Woes: ISS Departure Pushed Back Again

SpaceX Dragon Cargo Craft Approaches Space Station November 2022

The SpaceX Dragon cargo craft, loaded with over 7,700 pounds of science, supplies, and cargo, approaches the International Space Station for a docking 264 miles above the Atlantic ocean in between South America and Africa in November 2022. Credit: NASA

Following a weather review, NASA and SpaceX now are targeting no earlier than 5:05 p.m. EST on Thursday, December 21, for the undocking of the company’s 29th Dragon commercial resupply services mission from the International Space Station (ISS) due to unfavorable weather in the splashdown zones off the coast of Florida.

Coverage of Dragon’s departure Thursday will begin at 4:45 p.m. on the NASA+ streaming service via the web or the NASA app. Coverage also will air live on NASA Television, YouTube, and on the agency’s website.

After re-entering Earth’s atmosphere, the spacecraft will splash down off the coast of Florida, which will not be broadcast on NASA TV.

NASA and Northrop Grumman continue to target Friday, December 22, for the departure of the Cygnus spacecraft from the orbital complex.

Coverage of Cygnus departure Friday will begin at 7:45 a.m. ahead of the robotic release of the spacecraft at 8:05 a.m. on the NASA+ streaming service via the web or the NASA app. Coverage also will air live on NASA Television, YouTube, and on the agency’s website.

Cygnus will conduct secondary payload operations following unberthing and complete a safe re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere where it will burn up harmlessly over the Pacific Ocean.

SpaceX Dragon Cargo Craft Near ISS January 2023

The SpaceX Dragon cargo craft is pictured departing the vicinity of the space station following its undocking from the Harmony module’s space-facing port. Credit: NASA

SpaceX Cargo Dragon

The SpaceX Cargo Dragon is a pivotal element in the advancement of commercial spaceflight, particularly in the realm of cargo transportation. Developed by SpaceX, the Cargo Dragon is a variant of the Dragon spacecraft, designed specifically for transporting supplies, equipment, and sometimes scientific experiments to the International Space Station (ISS). This spacecraft is notable for its capability to return significant amounts of cargo to Earth, a feature not shared by all cargo spacecraft.

The Cargo Dragon is part of NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services program and has been operational since 2012. It represents a major step forward in reusable spacecraft technology, as SpaceX has successfully demonstrated the ability to refurbish and relaunch these vehicles, significantly reducing the cost of access to space.

Cygnus Spacecraft ISS Canadarm2

File photo of a Northrop Grumman Cygnus spacecraft in the grip of the International Space Station’s Canadarm2 robotic arm. Credit: NASA

Northrop Grumman Cygnus Spacecraft

The Northrop Grumman Cygnus cargo spacecraft is another key player in the arena of commercial spaceflight, particularly in the resupply of the ISS. Developed initially by Orbital Sciences Corporation (now part of Northrop Grumman), Cygnus was designed under NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program. Unlike the Cargo Dragon, Cygnus is primarily a disposable spacecraft, burning up in the Earth’s atmosphere after its mission is complete.

It has been operational since 2013 and is capable of delivering both pressurized and unpressurized cargo to the ISS. Cygnus spacecraft are launched atop Antares rockets from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport in Virginia, and they play a crucial role in maintaining the continuous flow of scientific research and essential supplies to the orbiting laboratory.

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