SpaceX’s Dragon Cargo Ship Makes First Atlantic Splashdown


The SpaceX Dragon cargo ship is littered with science experiments, a case of alcohol and live mice that made their first jump into the Atlantic Ocean, NASA has confirmed.

The spacecraft autonomously awoke from the International Space Station on Tuesday 12 January after a 36-day stay involving the orbiting laboratory.

Onboard experiments include Bordeaux wine, a crate of living mice and 3D printed buds that can produce human organs from stem cells in a day.

In total there were 4,400lb of scientific research and other cargo that fell from the West Coast of Florida to the Gulf of Mexico at 01:30 GMT this morning.

This photo provided by NASA shows SpaceX’s Dragon undocking from the International Space Station on Tuesday, January 12, 2021

The previous SpaceX Dragon cargo mission ended in the Pacific with a parachute assisted splashdown, but the new version of this spaceship is designed to land close to the NASA Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

This is where the space agency processes the scientific experiments conducted on the ISS – hence its division into the Atlantic Ocean for the first time.

The SpaceX Dragon is designed as a reusable spacecraft that can safely deliver equipment and cargo to the ISS as well as return science experiments to Earth.

“The advanced cargo dragon capsules used for this mission have double the locker-operated locker availability of the previous capsules, allowing for a significant increase in research,” NASA said.

“Some scientists quickly returned their research four to nine hours after the splatter.”

This is the first time science experiments from the space station have been able to return from Florida since the space shuttle ceased operations in 2011.

This image shows some of the cargo that was loaded onto the dragon ship since it first arrived on the ISS last year.  It can hold more in the freezer than the original dragon

The image shows some cargo that was loaded onto the dragon ship since it first arrived on the ISS last year. It can hold more in cold storage than the original Dragon

In 2016, NASA astronaut Kate Rubins parked next to storage in the SpaceX CRS-9 cargo dragon spacecraft.  The new cargo spacecraft has more powered locker space, enabling additional cold stowage space.

NASA astronaut Kate Rubinus parked next to storage in the SpaceX CRS-9 cargo dragon spacecraft in 2016. The new cargo spacecraft has more powered locker space, enabling additional cold stowage space.

To get back to Earth, the experiments had to travel by capsule, helicopter, boat, plane, and car, which the researchers made their way to before designing them.

“I’m excited to finally see science returning here again because we can do these sensitive experiments faster than ever before,” says Jennifer Wahlberg, project manager at the Kennedy Space Center.

‘Sending science into space and getting it back on the runway again was definitely something we were really proud of in the shuttle days, and being able to get through that process again.’

As the spacecraft returns to Earth, experiments begin to experience the effects of gravity again, NASA reported in a blog post.

In universities, companies and other institutions, there is a considerable process involved in obtaining the experiment from temporary capsules.

Describing the process, NASA said: ‘After SpaceX’s boat capsule is lifted out of the water, a waiting team pulls the time-critical science out of the spacecraft and loads it onto a waiting helicopter.

‘A few hours after the splash, the helicopter will deliver this science. Any remaining scientific cargo will either return to another chopper load or be removed to port by boat. ‘

The helicopter will land experiments at the Shuttle Landing Facility (SLF), previously used for space shuttle return activities.

A team would then transfer most of the cargo from the truck to the Kennedy Space Center Space Station Processing Facility (SSPF), where science teams would be waiting.

“We are going to prepare a parade of researchers at the Kennedy Space Center waiting for samples,” said flight leader Mary Walsh of Kennedy’s Office of Research Integration.

The spacecraft left the International Space Station on Tuesday, and after some delay, the Gulf of Mexico finally splashed into the Atlantic Ocean this morning.

The spacecraft left the International Space Station on Tuesday, and after some delay, the Gulf of Mexico finally splashed into the Atlantic Ocean this morning.

There is much involved in getting scientists back into science experiments, this includes shipping via boat, helicopter and car

There is much involved in getting scientists back into science experiments, this includes shipping via boat, helicopter and car

The SSPF has traditionally been home to world-class laboratories to prepare experiments for launch into space, providing equipment and workplaces to immediately take data and analyze samples, the space agency explained.

Pahlberg says, “Scientists will take a quick look to get early results and then send it back to their home bases.”

‘The advantage of being able to observe science first is the ability to negate any gravitational effects on research once it is in space.’

From the hub at the Kennedy Space Center, science samples and experiments will go worldwide to California, Texas, Massachusetts, Japan and more.

A large amount of science returning to Earth on this mission is possible thanks to the upgrade of the SpaceX Cargo Dragon spacecraft, which has double the powered locker capacity of the company’s previous capsules.

The Rodent Research hardware system includes three modules: (left) vas, (center) transporter, and (right) animal access unit.  Credit: NASA / AIIMS Research Center / Hertz

The Rodent Research hardware system is a return to Earth experiment – consisting of three modules: (left) habitat, (center) transporter, and (right) animal access unit

Another experiment saw a case of alcohol being sent to the ISS over the age of one year - it would be tasted in February and studied for changes in bubble content

Another experiment saw a case of alcohol being sent to the ISS over the age of one year – it would be tasted in February and studied for changes in bubble content

Upon return, it can support up to 12 powered lockers, enabling the transport of more cold cargo and electricity for additional payloads.

The ‘old capsule was like a cream-filled donut. Walls said, you packed everything around the walls and then in the middle we put a big giant bag.

‘This advanced cargo dragon is like a three-story house. You stuff in the basement, then you pack that second story, then you go upstairs and pack the third story. So this is really different from a design perspective. ‘

The next SpaceX Dragon cargo mission will take place in May, and the Crew Dragon capsule is currently docked with the space station, which is due to return its four-man crew in May.

Earlier, another crew will launch the Dragon spacecraft in March to send another four astronauts to the orbiting laboratory.

Experiments returning from the ISS: the introduction of a 3D-printed heart, living mice, and bacteria

Cardinal heart, Who study how changes in gravity using 3D engineered heart tissue, a type of tissue chip, affect the heart and cells at the cellular and tissue levels.

The results can provide new understanding of heart problems on Earth, help identify new treatments, and support the development of screening measures to estimate heart risk before spaceflight.

Space organization, A Japan aerospace exploration agency study that demonstrates the development of 3D organ buds from human stem cells to analyze gene expression changes.

The results of this investigation may show the advantages of using microgravity for state-of-the-art developments in regenerative medicine and may contribute to the establishment of the technologies required to make prostheses.

Bacterial adhesion and corrosion applicationT, which identifies the genes of bacteria used during biofilm development, examines whether biofilms can contaminate stainless steel, and evaluates the effectiveness of disinfectants.

This investigation may provide better information for controlling and removing resistant biofilms while contributing to the success of long-term astronauts in the future.

Fiber optic production, Which involves the return of experimental optical fibers made into microgravity using a mixture of zirconium, barium, lanthanum, sodium, and aluminum.

The return of fiber in terms of a chemical formula, called ZBLAN, will help validate experimental studies that suggest that fibers made in space should exhibit much better properties for those produced on Earth.

Rodent Research-23, Which includes the return of living mice. This experiment studies the function of arteries, veins and lymphatic structures in the eye and changes in the retina before and after spaceflight.

The purpose is to clarify whether these changes impair visual function. At least 40 percent of astronauts known as spacecraft-associated neuro-ocular syndrome (SANS) experience vision defects on long-term astronauts, which could adversely affect mission success. .

Source: NASA

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