On August 29th, SpaceX launched its 21st rocket of the year, carrying a robotic Dragon cargo capsule toward the International Space Station (ISS) before landing safely at sea. At 3:14 a.m. EDT, a two-stage Falcon 9 rocket launched from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, launching the company’s 23rd cargo resupply mission to the orbiting lab for NASA. The Dragon is loaded with about 4,800 pounds of supplies, research experiments, and hardware, including a new robotic arm that will be tested inside the Bishop Airlock of the space station.
The Falcon 9’s first stage returned to Earth less than eight minutes after liftoff, landing safely on one of SpaceX drone ships in the Atlantic Ocean. The huge ship, dubbed “A Shortfall of Gravitas,” is the newest of three drone ships in the company’s fleet of recovery vessels that grab and return falling boosters to port for later utilisation. On Monday (Aug. 30), Dragon is expected to arrive at the station and dock at the Harmony module’s space-facing port around 11 a.m. EDT (1500 GMT).
After launching its third Dragon spacecraft, the rocket now has four missions under its belt. Since SpaceX recovered its first rocket in 2015, today’s landing marks the 90th recovery of a Falcon first stage. A new robotic arm will be tested inside the station’s newest airlock, thanks to the newly launched cargo Dragon, which is transporting a treasure trove of science investigations to the orbital outpost. The robotic arm will flip switches and push buttons as part of a technology demonstration to show it has what it takes to perform ordinary astronaut chores. A range of medical payloads are also on board, which will aid astronauts as well as people on Earth.