With the support of NASA, SpaceX will launch its Cargo Dragon 2 spacecraft to the International Space Station on Sunday, December 6th at 11:17 AM EST, and dock on the next day. This launch will mark the first launch of a Cargo Dragon 2, and it will ride atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 Block 5 rocket, which will launch from Launch Complex 39A, Cape Canaveral, Florida. The previous 20 Commercial Resupply Service missions were operated by the Cargo Dragon 1, but the mission will be supported by a Dragon 2 capsule, and the booster supporting this mission (B1058) supported the Demo-2 mission, ANASIS-II mission, and Starlink L12.
There are lots of differences between past Cargo Dragon flights and CRS-21. There are 5 unique facts about CRS-21.
One of the interesting facts is that for the first time, there will be 2 Dragons docked simultaneously at the ISS (Cargo Dragon 2 and Crew Dragon Resilience), marking the stepping-stone of commercialization of the ISS.
Another fact is that the Cargo Dragon’s docking sequence will not involve the Canadarm 2 used to capture the previous Cargo Dragons, it will dock autonomously to the Space Station using its maneuvering thrusters, not relying on the Canadarm 2.
Aboard the Cargo Dragon, soon to fly to the International Space Station is 2,972 kg (6,553 lbs) of cargo, including the NanoRacks Airlock Module, BioAsteroid kit, Hemocue system, crew supplies, and more. This Dragon has its life support system, seats, and controls all removed, which will allow for easier, and faster refurbishment for future Cargo Resupply Missions and remove unnecessary weight to allow for more cargo capacity.
CRS-21 will be making a change to the ISS because of its cargo onboard. One of the important items on board is the Bishop Airlock Module made by Nanoracks. This is the first commercial-made airlock and will benefit the ISS crew by allowing robotic movement of more and larger packages outside of the International Space Station.
Another important experimental packet is BioAsteroid. BioAsteroid is a space biomining experiment and biofilm information. Microbes can break down rocks into soil, extract elements that are important to life support aboard the space station.
Cargo Dragon is the only vehicle that can return hardware back to Earth, failed hardware was returned by previous Cargo Dragons, and there’s no exception to CRS-21. Dragon will bring back the Treadmill Data Avionics Unit, the Minus Eighty Laboratory Freezer for the ISS, and more. This would be useful due to its hardware increasing on the ISS, and the capacity to fit hardware decreasing.
Sarah Walker, SpaceX Dragon Mission Management Director says, “We’re excited about all of the missions that we’ll be flying for NASA and the International Space Station program, both cargo and crew, and it’s really just an honor to be a part of that.”
This article was written by Justin K (SpaceStar) and SixSilverStones (@sixsilverstones).