The commercial SpaceX cargo Dragon loaded with over 2.6 tons of critically needed supplies and science experiments was captured by the crew aboardthe International Space Station (ISS) this morning (Jan. 12) while soaring over the over the Mediterranean Sea.
The SpaceX Dragon CRS-5 cargo vessel arrived at the station following a flawless two day orbital pursuit and spectacular nighttime blastoff atop the SpaceX Falcon 9 on Jan. 10 at 4:47 a.m. EST from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
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Working at robotics work station inside the seven windowed domed cupola, Expedition 42 Commander Barry “Butch” Wilmore of NASA, with the assistance of Flight Engineer Samantha Cristoforetti of the European Space Agency, successfully captured the Dragon spacecraft with the station’s Canadian-built robotic arm at 5:54 a.m. EST.
Wilmore grappled Dragon with the station’s 57-foot-long (17-meter-long) robotic arm at 5:54 a.m. EST, about 18 minutes ahead of schedule in an operation shown live on NASA TV, back dropped by breathtaking views of‘our beautiful Earth’ passing by some 260 miles (410 kilometers) below.
The arm is being maneuvered to berth Dragon at the Earth-facing port on the station’s Harmony module starting at 7:45 a.m. EST.
CRS-5 marks the company’s fifth operational resupply mission to the ISS under a $1.6 Billion contract with NASA to deliver 20,000 kg (44,000 pounds) of cargo to the station during a dozen Dragon cargo spacecraft flights through 2016 under NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) contract.
Overall this is the sixth Dragon to arrive at the ISS.
The Dragon CRS-5 spacecraft is loaded with over 5108 pounds (2317 kg) of scientific experiments, technology demonstrations, crew supplies, spare parts, food, water, clothing and assorted research gear for the six person crew serving aboard the ISS.
Among the payloads is the Cloud-Aerosol Transport System (CATS), a remote-sensing laser instrument to measure clouds and the location and distribution of pollution, dust, smoke, and other particulates and aerosols in the atmosphere.
Also loaded onboard are 17 student experiments known collectively as the ‘Yankee Clipper’ mission. The experiments are sponsored by the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education, which oversees the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program (SSEP in partnership with NanoRacks LLC.
The launch marked the first US commercial resupply launch since the catastrophic destruction of an Orbital Sciences Antares rocket and Cygnus Orb-3 spacecraft bound for the ISS exploded unexpectedly after launch from NASA Wallops, VA, on Oct. 28, 2014.
The US supply train to the ISS is now wholly dependent on SpaceX until Cygnus flights are resumed hopefully by late 2015 on an alternate rocket, the Atlas V.
Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Earth and planetary science and human spaceflight news.
Source: UniverseToday, by Ken Kremer