SpaceX had successfully launched the Dragon Spacecraft into orbit earlier this week. Today at 7:30am ET, SpaceX webcasts the approach of Dragon to the International Space Station (ISS). This will be the big highlight of the SpaceX mission. Dragon will be captured by ISS's robotic arm and attached to the station, a feat that requires extreme precision.
The live video stream of the Dragon approach to ISS will be available on the NASA site.
Dragon is a free-flying, reusable spacecraft being developed by SpaceX under NASA's Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program. Initiated internally by SpaceX in 2005, the Dragon spacecraft is made up of a pressurized capsule and unpressurized trunk used for Earth to LEO transport of pressurized cargo, unpressurized cargo, and/or crew members.
The Dragon spacecraft is comprised of 3 main elements: the Nosecone, which protects the vessel and the docking adaptor during ascent; the Spacecraft, which houses the crew and/or pressurized cargo as well as the service section containing avionics, the RCS system, parachutes, and other support infrastructure; and the Trunk, which provides for the stowage of unpressurized cargo and will support Dragon’s solar arrays and thermal radiators.
In December 2008, NASA announced the selection of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 launch vehicle and Dragon spacecraft to resupply the International Space Station (ISS) when the Space Shuttle retires. The $1.6 billion contract represents a minimum of 12 flights, with an option to order additional missions for a cumulative total contract value of up to $3.1 billion.
Though designed to address cargo and crew requirements for the ISS, as a free-flying spacecraft Dragon also provides an excellent platform for in-space technology demonstrations and scientific instrument testing. SpaceX is currently manifesting fully commercial, non-ISS Dragon flights under the name “DragonLab”. DragonLab represents an emergent capability for in-space experimentation.
- Fully autonomous rendezvous and docking with manual override capability in crewed configuration
- 6,000 kg (13,228 lbs) payload up-mass to LEO; 3,000 kg (6,614 lbs) payload down-mass
- Payload Volume: 10 m3 (350 ft3) pressurized, 14 m3 (490 ft3) unpressurized
- Supports up to 7 passengers in Crew configuration
- Two-fault tolerant avionics system with extensive heritage
- Reaction control system with 18 MMH/NTO thrusters designed and built in-house; these thrusters are used for both attitude control and orbital maneuvering
- 1290 kg of propellant supports a safe mission profile from sub-orbital insertion to ISS rendezvous to reentry
- Integral common berthing mechanism, with LIDS or APAS support if required
- Designed for water landing under parachute for ocean recovery
- Lifting re-entry for landing precision & low-g’s
- Ablative, high-performance heat shield and sidewall thermal protection