Dragon Splashes Down Ending SpaceX Mission

SpaceX’s Dragon cargo spacecraft splashed down in the Pacific Ocean at about 7:44 p.m. EST 259 miles southwest of Long Beach, California, marking the end of the company’s fifth contracted cargo resupply mission to the International Space Station.

The spacecraft is returning about 3,700 pounds of NASA cargo and science samples from the International Space Station. A SpaceX vessel will take the Dragon spacecraft to Long Beach, where some cargo will be removed and returned to NASA. Dragon will be prepared for a return journey to SpaceX’s test facility in McGregor, Texas, for processing.

The mission was the fifth of 12 cargo resupply trips SpaceX will make to the space station through 2016 under NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services contract.

Dragon Conducts Deorbit Burn, Splashdown Next

Dragon conducted its deorbit burn on time at 5:49pm Central time, 6:49pm Eastern time and is headed for its parachute-assisted splashdown in the Pacific some 259 statute miles southwest of Long Beach, California. Splashdown time remains approximately 6:44pm Central time, 7:44pm Eastern time (4:44pm at the splashdown site, about 2 hours, 4 minutes before sunset).

Dragon Set Free for Splashdown and Recovery in Pacific

Dragon Released from Station
Samantha Cristoforetti commanded the Canadarm2 to release the SpaceX Dragon from its grip. Credit: NASA TV

The SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft was released from the International Space Station’s robotic arm at 2:10 p.m. EST. The capsule was maneuvered outside the vicinity of the space station in preparation for its return trip to Earth. The capsule is currently scheduled to splashdown in the Pacific Ocean at about 7:44 p.m., 259 miles southwest of Long Beach, California.

Robotics controllers on the ground removed the SpaceX Dragon from the Harmony node Tuesday morning after they finished packing it full of critical research and gear Monday. Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti, backed up by Flight Engineer Terry Virts, commanded the Canadarm2 to release Dragon.

Cristoforetti also worked on orbital plumbing during the day before heading to the cupola for the release. Earlier, Commander Butch Wilmore and Virts demated the jumper cables and depressurized the vestibule which is the interface between Harmony and Dragon. The NASA astronauts also had time set aside to organize tools ahead of three spacewalks to install cables the first of which is set to begin Feb. 20.

The cosmonauts continued their work conducting Russian science and stowing trash and gear inside the ISS Progress 57 (57P) resupply ship.

Crew Prepares for Dragon Release After Hatches Closed

SpaceX Dragon
Expedition 42 Commander and NASA Astronaut Barry Wilmore and European Space Agency Astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti used the Canadarm2 robotic arm to grapple the SpaceX Dragon (CRS-5) ship on Jan. 12 2015. Photo Credit: NASA

The Expedition 42 crew closed the hatches to the Dragon commercial cargo craft today after loading it with critical gear and research. Dragon will be unberthed from the Harmony module then released from the grips of the Canadarm2 Tuesday afternoon. It will splashdown off the Pacific coast of Baja California for recovery by SpaceX engineers a couple of hours before sunset.

› Read more about NASA TV coverage of the release of SpaceX Dragon

Meanwhile, a trio of cosmonauts worked in the Russian segment of the International Space Station on their set of science investigations. They studied ways to locate punctures caused my micro-meteoroids on the Russian side of the station; they looked at the behavior of charged macroparticles inside a magnetic trap; they also explored crew training methods using interactive 3D manuals, or virtual manuals.

Another resupply spacecraft is counting down to its undocking from the space station this weekend. Europe’s Automated Transfer Vehicle-5 (ATV-5) is set to undock from the Zvezda service module Saturday for a fiery deorbit over the Pacific about two weeks later. Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti installed internal cameras inside the ATV-5 that will record its breakup during the reentry. Engineers will use this data to understand the mechanics of a deorbiting spacecraft.

Space Freighters Prepped for Departure During Troubleshooting Activities

Astronaut Terry Virts
NASA Astronaut Terry Virts works on a pair of spacesuits in the U.S. Quest airlock. He and Commander Barry Wilmore are due to begin a trio of spacewalks Feb. 20. Credit: NASA TV

Europe’s Automated Transfer Vehicle-5 (ATV-5) is operating with one less electronics chain that provides power to its batteries after it failed Wednesday. The other three electronics chains are operating normally as flight controllers and the station crew prepare the ATV-5 for its departure Feb. 14.

Cosmonauts Alexander Samokutyaev and Anton Shkaplerov set up gear in the Zvezda Service Module that will monitor the departure of the ATV-5. The European supply ship will fly about 4,000 miles away from the International Space Station before reentering the Earth’s atmosphere over the Pacific Ocean Feb. 27.

› Read more about the ATV-5 mission

NASA astronauts Barry Wilmore and Terry Virts checked a U.S. spacesuit Thursday and attempted to restart its fan motor after it failed. Another spacesuit with a similar issue was packed inside the SpaceX Dragon space freighter, including other gear, hardware and science research, waiting for its return to Earth Feb. 10 where it will analyzed by engineers.

› Read more about the SpaceX CRS-5 mission

Crew Reviews Spacewalk Procedures

Terry Virts and Samantha Cristoforetti
Astronauts Terry Virts and Samantha Cristoforetti share fresh fruit floating inside the International Space Station.

Commander Barry Wilmore and Flight Engineer Terry Virts reviewed spacewalk procedures Wednesday. They are scheduled to start the first of three spacewalks Feb. 20. The duo will set up cables and communication equipment allowing the future installation of International Docking Adapters accommodating commercial crew vehicles.

A CubeSat delivered to the International Space Station in January aboard the SpaceX Dragon supply ship will be deployed outside the Kibo lab module Thursday morning. It is testing various subsystems in space and also includes an amateur radio experiment.

› Read more about the SpaceX CRS-5 mission

European flight controllers are investigating a signal indicative of a failure in a power chain that provides battery power to the Automated Transfer Vehicle-5 (ATV-5). Three other power chains are operating normally inside the ATV-5 and the six-member Expedition 42 crew is continuing its normal activities.

Canadarm2 Prepares to Grab Dragon; Life Science for Crew

Flight Engineer Terry Virts
ISS042E119876 (01/10/2015) — US Astronaut and Flight Engineer Terry Virts a member of Expedition 42 on the International Space Station prepares to take scientific photographs on Jan. 10, 2015.

Mission Controllers in Houston will send commands to the 57.7 foot long Canadarm2 to grapple the SpaceX Dragon space freighter Tuesday. The robotic arm will latch on to a grapple fixture ahead of next week’s release of Dragon from the Harmony module. It will splash down off the Pacific coast of Baja California loaded with research and gear for analysis on Earth.

› Read more about the SpaceX CRS-5 mission

Back inside the International Space Station, the crew is working on more visiting vehicle activities, spacewalk preparations as well as ongoing microgravity science.

Commander Barry Wilmore is loading Europe’s Automated Transfer Vehicle-5 (ATV-5) with trash readying the vehicle for its departure Feb. 14. Cosmonauts Alexander Samokutyaev and Anton Shkaplerov practiced using the telerobotically operated rendezvous system, or TORU, ahead of the Feb. 17 arrival of the ISS Progress 58 resupply ship. The TORU would be used in the unlikely event the Kurs automated rendezvous system failed during the Progress’ approach.

Wilmore also harvested plants for the APEX-03 botany experiment. That study observes the effects of microgravity on the development of roots and cells on plant seedlings. Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti looked at roundworms for the Epigenetics study that researches if new cell generations adapt to microgravity.

› Read more about the APEX-03 botany experiment
› Read about the Epigenetics study

Pair of Cargo Ships Prepped for Departure

Expedition 42 Crew Members
(From left) Expedition 42 crew members Commander Barry Wilmore and Flight Engineers Samantha Cristoforetti and Terry Virts talk to journalists from CNN Español and KUSA-TV in Denver, Colo.

There are three docked space freighters at the International Space Station and two are scheduled to depart this month. The SpaceX Dragon commercial cargo craft is being loaded with research and gear for return and analysis back on Earth. The Canadarm2 will detach Dragon from the Harmony module then release it for a splashdown Feb. 10 off the Pacific Coast of Baja California.

Europe’s Automated Transfer Vehicle-5 (ATV-5) is being packed with trash and discarded gear and being readied for its departure Feb. 14. It will deorbit over the Pacific Ocean for a fiery destruction. This is Europe’s last ATV resupply mission to the space station.

A new ISS Progress 58 space freighter is scheduled for a six-hour flight to the station when it launches from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan Feb. 17. It will occupy the same Zvezda docking port where the ATV-5 is located now.

Meanwhile, Commander Barry Wilmore and Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti worked high-flying plumbing and maintenance on the International Space Station. Wilmore also prepared heater cables that will be installed on an upcoming spacewalk. Flight Engineer Terry Virts processed samples for a materials science experiment and removed hardware from the Commercial Generic Bioprocessing Apparatus which is used to study cells, microbes and plants.

› Read more about the Coarsening in Solid Liquid Mixtures-2)
› Read more about the Commercial Generic Bioprocessing Apparatus