Tech

An era is coming to an end: Dragon capsule from SpaceX back on Earth

SpaceX has once again safely launched a Dragon-type space freighter after docking at the International Space Station for a month. Mission CRS-20 marks the end of the first phase of the Commercial Resupply Services project, in which private companies completed cargo flights to the ISS for NASA. SpaceX is now mothballing the Dragon capsules and will switch to cargo versions of the Crew Dragon for the second phase starting in October. For the space company, an extremely successful order comes to an end, in which a lot of experience has been gained and, in the end, more and more space capsules and missiles have been used several times.

After the end of the Space Shuttle, NASA commissioned the two companies SpaceX and Orbital Sciences to carry out cargo flights to the ISS. Only the Dragon capsules from Elon Musk's company were able to return large quantities of freight to the earth, such as experiments. The first flight was successful in autumn 2012 and heralded a new era for US space travel. She also founded the later success of SpaceX, which was able to demonstrate the capabilities of its technology. However, there was a major setback in summer 2015 when a Dragon freighter exploded shortly after launch. The postponed start of CRS-8 was successful again.

When CRS-11 was launched, a Dragon capsule was flown into space for the second time. Months later, a new Dragon capsule launched for the ISS at CRS-12. The eight following supply flights were all carried out with capsules that had already flown into space. In July 2019, a Dragon capsule even took off on its CRS-18 flight for its third space stay. The freighter now used in CRS-20 had also been to the ISS twice before. The capsules were captured there by robotic arms, which will no longer be necessary in the future.

NASA had already announced in January 2016 that it wanted to continue the successful cooperation with private providers and promised SpaceX further orders. Northrop Grumman (which Orbital Sciences has taken over in the meantime) with its space freighter Cygnus will also continue to be involved in the supply of the ISS. Added to this is the Sierra Nevada Dream Chaser. While Cygnus capsules have already completed two flights as part of this contract, SpaceX is set to get started with the new Dragon in October. The Dream Chaser is scheduled to complete a demonstration flight next year and then begin work in 2022.


(mho)

. (tagsToTranslate) Dragon (t) ISS (t) space freighter (t) SpaceX