Five Spacecraft Docked at the International Space Station

spacecraft docked at the iss

There are five spacecraft currently docked to the International Space Station, including SpaceX Dragon cargo ship and Russian Soyuz capsule which will return three astronauts home. SpaceX Dragon automatically linked up with station on Thursday while Soyuz capsule will transport astronauts back home.

The Soyuz MS-22 carrying US astronaut Frank Rubio and Russian cosmonauts Dmitry Petelin and Sergei Prokopyev arrived safely back at its dock early Sunday.

SpaceX’s Dragon 2

Recently, a Dragon capsule made a spectacular journey across the Southeast United States before producing an audible sonic boom before splashing down in the Atlantic. This marked the inaugural operational Commercial Crew flight that will carry four astronauts aboard for a six-month mission aboard ISS.

CRS-21 was loaded with 2,914 kilograms of pressurized and unpressurized cargo, including supplies for the International Space Station crew, scientific experiments, spacewalk equipment and five individual investigations sponsored by NASA and international partners such as BRAINS which is focused on understanding how aluminum alloys behave in space.

Once Dragon reaches 20 meters above the station, teams in Houston (NASA mission control), Hawthorne (SpaceX mission control), and onboard will confirm it’s safe for docking in order to avoid time conflicts with another cargo ship’s arrival on Monday: Russia’s Progress MS-22 will bring new crewmembers for ESA’s Futura mission.

NASA’s Cygnus

Northrop Grumman Cygnus cargo spacecraft is currently on a supplies mission to the International Space Station (ISS), but its second solar array failed to deploy as planned on Tuesday; engineers are assessing its condition before making their determination as to whether it can carry out an important docking maneuver early Wednesday.

Cygnus, named for a northern constellation, was launched from NASA’s Wallops Island facility on an Antares rocket and uses GPS and star trackers to autonomously close in on the International Space Station where its Canadarm2 robot arm can capture it.

Once at the ISS, crew members open Cygnus hatch and begin pulling equipment from it. Over its 30-day mission, this trash and no longer-needed equipment will be loaded onto its cargo hold for return to Earth for destructive reentry; this mission marks Cygnus’ 17th resupply mission under Commercial Resupply Services’ contract; its next one is set for November 2019.

Russia’s Soyuz MS-22

In December, a Soyuz spacecraft experienced a coolant leak that forced two Russian cosmonauts and one NASA astronaut into orbit until a replacement capsule could be deployed from Earth.

Soyuz MS-23 was launched Thursday from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan and docked with Rassvet on Wednesday to increase crew numbers to seven aboard the station.

Anna Kikina of Russia operated the robot arm of Nauka laboratory’s Russian segment to open up the spacecraft’s nadir port for inspection by their robotic arm stationed on board. Maintenance work on board will now continue over several hours with inspections performed using robot arm of station.

In September, Soyuz is scheduled to return from space and land its re-entry vehicle southeast of Zhezkazgan in Kazakhstan carrying 218 pounds of cargo including results of scientific experiments as well as equipment that will need to be evaluated upon landing.

SpaceX’s Crew Dragon

The Crew Dragon spacecraft was developed specifically to transport NASA astronauts to the International Space Station as part of the Commercial Crew Program, with Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken aboard successfully taking place on March 2, 2020 launch to orbit.

SpaceX has long provided cargo resupply missions using its Dragon cargo capsules to the International Space Station, but now plans on transporting astronauts as well. They offer the Crew Dragon version which seats seven people comfortably.

As with its cargo counterpart, Crew Dragon features both pressurized cabin and unpressurized section, each designed for astronauts and cargo respectively. After landing, SpaceX’s NRC Quest recovery ship arrives quickly to collect it – complete with crane, communications equipment and lifting frame to haul out its payload from the water – just as was done after Dragon 1 made its first test mission splashdown.

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