SpaceX’s Dragon capsule, which it launched on Saturday, June 3, has made its rendezvous with the International Space Station, as planned. The capsule, SpaceX’s first used cargo spacecraft reflown for an active mission, has around 6,000 lbs of supplies and materials on board for ISS crew and to support scientific experiments.
The Dragon craft launched from SpaceX’s Kennedy Space Center LC-39A facility on Saturday, aboard a Falcon 9 rocket, as the payload for its CRS-11 ISS resupply mission. During the launch, which was the first reflight of a reused Dragon craft as mentioned, SpaceX also recovered the Falcon 9 first stage it used to propel the craft to low-earth orbit.
Dragon separated from the rocket’s second stage shortly after launch, and then spent around 36 hours orbiting the Earth in order to get lined up and ready to dock with the ISS. Astronauts Peggy Whitson and Jack Fischer aboard the ISS captured the Dragon with the station’s Canadarm robotic appendage after a gradual approach sequence that started early on Monday morning, with the process beginning about 9 minutes ahead of schedule.
The Dragon craft will remain at the ISS for around one month, and then re-enter Earth’s atmosphere with a controlled de-orbit burn. SpaceX hopes to recover the capsule again after it splashes down in the Pacific Ocean off of Baja, so that it can refurbish it and reuse it for another future mission.
This is the 11th SpaceX ISS resupply mission, “which, if we follow the naming convention used by Prince, could be called ‘The artist formerly known as SpaceX 4,” Fischer joked, since it included use of the same Dragon capsule used on CRS-4 back in September, 2014.