The Dragon is an unmanned capsule sent by the Space X to the International Space Station carrying 1,146 pounds of cargoes. It is the first space mission carried out by a commercial company that successfully docked at the International Space Station (ISS). It is also the first space flight that completed the task from delivering and unloading cargoes to the International Space Station and then returning back to the earth along with cargoes from the ISS.
About the Dragon
The Dragon is a bell-shaped capsule the resembles the NASA’s Mercury, Gemini and Apollo spacecraft of the 1960s and 1970s. It has a measurement of 4.4 meters high and is 3.66 meters in diameter.
Launching of the Dragon
On May 22, 2012, the SpaceX launched the unmanned rocket, Falcon 9, sending the Dragon capsule into the space.
Docking at the International Space Station
When the Dragon successfully entered the space, it cruised 17,500 miles per hour orbing the earth, and then maneuvered itself so that it will come near the International Space Station wherein the Astronauts in the ISS use the ISS’s robotic arms in grabbing the capsule to dock into the station.
Astronauts from the International Space Station unloaded the 1,146 pounds of cargoes from the Dragon capsule which includes:
- student experiments
- other materials
Then the Astronauts loaded the Dragon capsule with 1,455 pounds cargoes from the International Space Station which are not already in use that needs to be returned to earth, particularly to the NASA.
The Dragon capsule spent 5 days docking at the International Space Station.
The May 2012 Return to Earth
On Thursday morning, May 31, 2012 at around 8:42 AM Pacific Time, the Dragon capsule safely splashed down the Pacific Ocean.
How it re-entered the earth?
- The Dragon capsule is equipped with a heat shield that protects itself from extreme heat upon re-entry of the earth atmosphere.
- It also has small rocket engines, the Draco Thrusters, that help the Dragon position itself so that it will touch the earth not on land but on water such us the Pacific Ocean.
- It also has the drogue parachutes which are deployed as the Dragon capsule reaches the height of 45,000 feet. These parachutes help in slowing down the speed of Dragon capsule.
- The main parachutes which have a diameter of 116 feet are deployed upon reaching the 10,000 feet altitude. These help slowing down the speed of the Dragon capsule so that it will splashed down the ocean safely.
The Dragon is picked by a barge using crane, and it will be transported to Texas so that its cargoes will be handed to the NASA.
The Future of the Dragon
The Dragon capsule will be sent to a display as a historic artefact. However, there are other Dragon capsules that are being prepared for other missions.
The SpaceX is actually planning of upgrading the capsules in a way that it can land into the earth like a helicopter.