Commercial launch services provider SpaceX has successfully completed its thirteenth resupply mission to and from the International Space Station (ISS). The company’s Dragon capsule returned to Earth after a month-long mission to the ISS splashing down in the Pacific Ocean west of Baja California at 15:37 GMT (07:37 EST) on Jan. 13.
The flight-proven Dragon capsule re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere travelling northeast to southwest. The capsule, protected by a heat shield, endured temperatures reaching as high as 1,650 degree Celsius (3,000 degrees Fahrenheit) as it plummeted from the sky. Once within Earth’s atmosphere, two guide parachutes deployed to stabilise the craft’s descent. Finally, three 35-meter (116-foot) main parachutes deployed to slow the craft for a gentle splashdown.
Good splashdown of Dragon confirmed, completing the second resupply mission to and from the @Space_Station with a flight-proven commercial spacecraft.
— SpaceX (@SpaceX) January 13, 2018
On its return, the SpaceX Dragon capsule transported over 1,800 kilograms (4,000 pounds) of scientific experiments and disused equipment, spacesuit gear and spacewalk hardware. Time-sensitive samples, such as live rodents, blood and urine used to investigate muscle wasting in microgravity will be handed over to researchers within days.
Following Saturday’s successful recovery of the Dragon capsule, SpaceX has officially completed 13 of the 20 contracted resupply missions awarded by NASA. The following 7 launches are planned to be completed by 2019. Additionally, SpaceX has since been awarded 6 additional resupply missions to be completed from 2020 through 2024.
The thirteenth SpaceX ISS resupply mission was the second to use a flight-proven Dragon capsule and the first to launch one aboard a flight-proven Falcon 9. The completed round trip is a testament to the launch provider’s goal of achieving 100% reusability of all mission hardware.
SpaceX hopes to begin testing fairing recovery and reuse this year.
Image Credit: SpaceX