A SpaceX Dragon cargo capsule arrived at the International Space Station early Tuesday (June 6) carrying 7,000 pounds (3,175 kilograms) of supplies and science experiments.
The robot dragon was launched on a top SpaceX The Falcon 9 rocket reached the orbital outpost at 5:50 a.m. EDT (0950 GMT) Monday (June 5) from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida after an 18-hour orbital chase. The capsule will remain attached to the space-facing port of the orbiting lab’s Harmony module for about three weeks.
The current Dragon mission is called CRS-28 because it is the 28th flight SpaceX has flown for NASA under Commercial Resupply Services contracts. The mission’s inventory also includes two International Space Station Roll Out Solar Arrays, or iROSAs, that will be installed outside the space station where astronauts orbit to boost its power output.
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Operating all iROSAs would increase the ISS’s power output by 20% to 30%, NASA officials said.
Science gear carried by the capsule includes a technology demonstration for autonomous space station docking systems, called Clinger, and Jeans in Space-10, which will test a way to measure the length of telomeres in microgravity.
Telomeres are segments of DNA at the end of a chromosome. Telomeres shorten as a person ages, a phenomenon associated with the onset of certain cancers and other diseases, as well as general age-related decline.
Dragon CRS-28 is expected to remain on the ISS for 21 days before returning to Earth for a parachute-assisted ocean splashdown.
Dragon is the only cargo ship capable of generating such secure returns. Two other robotic cargo planes currently in operation – Russia’s Progress Vehicle and the Cygnus built by American company Nordob Grumman – are designed to burn up in Earth’s atmosphere after their time in orbit.