The SpaceX Dragon CRS-18 spacecraft is in the grips of the Canadarm2 robotic arm shortly after it was captured over southern Chile on July 27, 2019. Credit: NASA
Ken Kremer — SpaceUpClose.com & RocketSTEM – 27 July 2019
KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FL – Two days after a stunningly beautiful liftoff from Florida’s Space Coast on a recycled SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket Thursday, July 25, the first thrice launched Dragon commercial cargo freighter arrived at the International Space Station (ISS) this morning, Saturday, July 27 and was captured by a pair of NASA astronauts using the Canadian-built robotic arm.
Packed on board Dragon are 2.5 tons of science experiments, supplies and a new docking mechanism to enable the docking of private SpaceX Taxi vehicles which will ferry astronauts to and from the massive the low Earth orbiting research outpost as well as a 3D bio printer, 40 mice and a host of biological microgravity research experiments.
While the International Space Station was traveling some 267 miles (469 km) over southern Chile, NASA astronauts Nick Hague and Christina Koch grappled the Dragon CRS-18 resupply ship at 9:11 a.m. EDT (1311 GMT), July 27, using the space station’s 57 foot long robotic arm Canadarm2.
The SpaceX Dragon CRS-18 commercial cargo freighter approaches the ISS prior to capture with Canadarm2 robotic arm over southern Chile on July 27, 2019. Credit: NASA
The recycled SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket successfully launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 40 in Florida on July 25, 2019, at 6:01 p.m. EDT, carrying the
company’s Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station on its 18th Commercial Resupply Services (CRS-18) mission.
Check out our gallery of Space UpClose eyewitness photos captured at the launch pad on Cape Canaveral Air Force and the Kennedy Space Center – from the roof of the Vehicle Assembly
Building (VAB) and around the Launch Complex 39 Press Site.
After 2 days of carefully choreographed thruster firings and orbit raising maneuvers Dragon
arrived at the orbiting outpost Saturday morning and was welcomed by the six-member multinational Expedition 60 crew living and working aboard the orbiting laboratory.
Live coverage of the spacecraft’s approach and arrival began at 8:00 a.m. on NASA Television and the agency’s website since the vehicle arrived about 45 minutes early.
SpaceX Dragon CRS-18 spacecraft in the grips of the Canadarm2 robotic arm shortly after it was captured over southern Chile on July 27, 2019. Credit: NASA
Dragon now joins four other cargo and crew spacecraft currently at the space station.
Expedition 60 NASA Flight Engineer Nick Hague served as prime robotic arm operator with NASA’s Christina Koch assisting as backup as they worked together at a robotic work station inside the domed Cupola module to maneuver Canadarm2 to grapple Dragon around 10 a.m. – when it was holding at the capture point about 11 meters away from the station.
“I want to congratulate the team across the globe that makes delivering a vehicle like
this — it’s pretty looking at it out the window — to the station with science and cargo and things to keep us busy. So the mission continues,” Hague radioed to mission control.
The SpaceX Dragon CRS-18
spacecraft is in the grips of the Canadarm2 robotic arm shortly after it was
captured over southern Chile on July 27, 2019. Credit: NASA
Ground controllers then took over and robotically installed the commercial Dragon cargo freighter to the nadir or Earth-facing port of the Harmony module.
The berthing process was completed around 12:03 p.m. ET (1603 GMT).
Engineers drove 16 bolts closed to complete a pressurized hard mate between the two vehicles.
After verifying leak checks the crew will open the hatches between the two vehicle and enter Dragon on Sunday, July 28.
The goal of the CRS-18 mission is cargo delivery for NASA carrying over 5000 pounds (2300 KG) of science and supplies to the International Space Station (ISS) from the Florida Space Coast.
The 20-foot high, 12-foot-diameter Dragon CRS-16 vessel is jam packed with more than 5097 pounds (2312 kilograms) of science experiments, research hardware, space parts, a spacesuit, food water, clothing and more supplies for the six person Expedition 60 crew.
The research gear will support dozens of the more than 250 science and research investigations that will occur during Expeditions 60 and beyond.
UpClose prelaunch view of SpaceX Dragon CRS-18 cargo
freighter atop Falcon 9 rocket prior to July 25, 2019 liftoff from Space Launch Complex 40
at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Credit: Ken
Among the cargo is the very important docking mechanism known as International Docking
Adapter-3 (IDA-3) – which was stored in the Dragon truck.
The IDA is required to be on station in order for the new commercial crew spaceships from SpaceX and Boeing to dock to it and connect to the orbiting outpost.
Dragon’s unpressurized trunk is carrying the Boeing-built International Docking Adapter-3 (IDA-3)
IDA-3 fills up most of the truck and has a mass of 1177 pounds (534 kg).
Astronauts will use the stations Canadian-built robotic arm to pluck IDA-3 from the trunk
and position it over the space-facing zenith port of the station’s Harmony module at
the space-facing Pressurized Mating Adapter-3 port (PMA-3).
In mid-August NASA astronauts Nick Hague and Andrew Morgan, who just arrived at the station one week ago on Saturday, July 20, will conduct an EVA spacewalk to install the docking port and attach power and date cables from the station to IDA to complete its installation. They will also set up a high-definition camera on a boom arm.
IDA-3 will become the second docking adapter for the astronaut carrying commercial crew vehicles –joining IDA-2 – thereby allowing both the Boeing Starliner and SpaceX Crew Dragon to simultaneously dock at the ISS and offering vast advantages and expanding opportunities to NASA to overlap commercial crew missions – much like is currently possible for Russian Soyuz capsules.
IDA-3 replaces IDA-1 which was lost when a prior SpaceX Dragon was lost during a Falcon-9 launch failure in 2015 of the CRS-7 mission.
IDA-2 arrived in 2016 loaded inside the SpaceX CRS-9 Dragon trunk and was used successfully for the first time for the docking of the SpaceX Demo-1 Commercial Crew
Program test flight in March 2019.
Also aboard is the Techshot 3D BioFabrication Facility (BFF) – the first ever 3D printer
capable of manufacturing human tissue in orbit.
1st experiments will focus on printing human cardiac cells. This 500 lb unit was on display at the
KSC press site – see our photo.
Dragon will remain berthed for about a month before returning for a parachute assisted splashdown in the Pacific Ocean.
Watch my commentary about the SpaceX launch of NASA cargo including the IDA-3 docking adapter at Fox 35 TV News at the 2nd video of this link:
Dr. Ken Kremer/Space UpClose July 24, 2019 interview with Fox
35 Orlando TV News about the SpaceX CRS-18 mission to the ISS
reporting of the SpaceX CRS-18 mission launch.
Watch for Ken’s continuing onsite coverage of NASA, SpaceX, ULA, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and more space and mission reports direct from the Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida and Wallops Flight Facility, Virginia.
Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Earth and Planetary science and human spaceflight news: www.kenkremer.com –www.spaceupclose.com – twitter @ken_kremer
– email: ken at kenkremer.com
Dr. Kremer is a research scientist and journalist based in the KSC area, active in outreach and interviewed regularly on TV and radio about space topics.
Ken’s photos are for sale and he is available for lectures and outreach events