Featured Picture: As Cargo Dragon pierces the higher atmosphere, the exhaust from the booster expands into a large plume. (Image credit: Next Horizons/Stephen Marr)
CAPE CANAVERAL, FL – At 11:50 pm Friday, March 6, SpaceX lit up the cool Florida evening and rocketed the last flight of the Cargo Dragon 1 variant to the ISS. The CRS-20 mission is delivering 4,360 lbs of supplies and experiments to the ISS, in what is also the final SpaceX resupply mission under the Commercial Resupply 1 contract. at T+8:17, the booster returned to earth, landing at LZ-1, the 50th landing of a Falcon 9 booster. The Cargo Dragon capsule will berth to ISS on Monday morning, which will be this particular Dragon’s third visit to the ISS.
This launch concludes the CRS-1 launch contract between SpaceX and NASA. They will begin the CRS-2 contract launch services with CRS-21 planned for August. During CRS-1 Spacex has delivered 94,000 lbs of supplies, equipment, and experiments to the ISS. Cargo Dragon was the first privately operated spacecraft to berth to ISS and return cargo to earth. Cargo Dragon capsules have spent a total time of 520 days berthed to the ISS and returned 74,000 lbs of cargo and experiments to earth during CRS-1. Another interesting first was the ability to bring live mice to ISS, which SpaceX was the first US launch provider to accomplish.
CRS-20 is packed with science and supplies for ISS. Cargo and equipment will mostly be transported inside the capsule. However, CRS-20 is also delivering the Bartolomeo module to the European portion of ISS, which is riding in the trunk underneath the capsule. The pressurized portion of the cargo includes 4.360 lbs of scientific experiments: which include materials science, tissue engineering, and fluid science loads. Once the mission is complete, the capsule will return to earth with 2,650 lbs of cargo.
When CRS launches resume under the new contract, they will be flying on the Cargo Dragon 2 variant. According to SpaceX, the new generation are 20% larger on the inside. They are also more reusable. Whereas, Crew Dragon 1 variants were rated for three flights, the 2 variant is rated for 5 flights per capsule. The new version also allows for docking as well as berthing, allowing for further flexibility of the system in general.
Enjoy some of launch day pictures!