An unmanned SpaceX Dragon cargo ship has splashed down in the Pacific Ocean off Baja California following a five-week docking at the International Space Station.
The Dragon was released from the space station by robotic arm at 6:11 a.m. EDT on Aug. 26 and made its splashdown less than six hours later at 11:48 a.m.
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launched the cargo craft from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on July 18. The Dragon delivered a pair of international docking adapters to the orbiting space lab, along with sundry crew supplies and scientific equipment including a space-based DNA sequencer.
The adapter will enable commercial crafts to dock at the ISS more easily.
“Today, the docking adapter is being extracted from Dragon’s trunk with the station’s robotic arm,” SpaceX posted on Instagram back on Aug. 17.
Two days later, NASA astronauts conducted a spacewalk to install the adapter. “We’re glad to be able to use Dragon’s unique capabilities to support the vital research work of the ISS,” SpaceX posted.
Some 3,000 pounds in cargo carried back to Earth by the Dragon include used crew gear and equipment, and scientific samples tagged for analysis by NASA. Dragon represents the only type of spacecraft currently in service that’s capable of returning large amounts of cargo to Earth.
There was also some smaller cargo transported on the returning Dragon: a dozen lab mice. DNA from their organs will be checked for effects from the mice’s month-plus stay in space.
Photo: NASA Television