After delivering about 5,500 pounds of cargo, the SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft is set to leave the International Space Station on Sunday, March 19. Live coverage of Dragon’s departure will begin at 4:45 a.m. EDT on NASA Television and the agency’s website.
Flight controllers will use the Canadarm2 robotic arm to detach the Dragon capsule, from the Earth-facing side of the station’s Harmony module. After they maneuver Dragon into place, Expedition 50 astronauts Thomas Pesquet of ESA (European Space Agency) and Shane Kimbrough of NASA will release it at 5:11 a.m.
Dragon’s thrusters will be fired to move the spacecraft a safe distance from the station before SpaceX flight controllers in Hawthorne, California, command its deorbit burn about 10 a.m. The capsule will splash down about 10:54 a.m. in the Pacific Ocean, where recovery forces will retrieve the capsule and its more than 5,400 pounds of cargo. This cargo will include science samples from human and animal research, external payloads, biology and biotechnology studies, physical science investigations and education activities.
The deorbit burn and splashdown will not be broadcast on NASA TV.
NASA and the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), the non-profit organization that manages research aboard the U.S. national laboratory portion of the space station, will receive time-sensitive samples and begin working with researchers to process and distribute them within 48 hours of splashdown.
In the event of adverse weather conditions in the Pacific, the backup departure and splashdown date is Wednesday, March 22.
Dragon, the only space station resupply spacecraft able to return to Earth intact, launched Feb. 19 on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from historic Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, and arrived at the station Feb. 23 for the company’s 10th NASA-contracted commercial resupply mission.
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Johnson Space Center, Houston