Dragon Splashes Down to Complete Resupply Mission

SpaceX’s Dragon cargo craft splashed down in the Pacific Ocean at 8:12 a.m. EDT, west of Baja California and the recovery process is underway, marking the end of the company’s eleventh contracted cargo resupply mission to the International Space Station for NASA.

Expedition 52 astronauts Jack Fischer and Peggy Whitson of NASA released the SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft from the International Space Station’s robotic arm right on schedule, at 2:41 a.m.

A variety of technological and biological studies are returning in Dragon. The Fruit Fly Lab-02 experiment seeks to better understand the effects of prolonged exposure to microgravity on the heart. Flies are small, with a well-known genetic make-up, and age rapidly, making them good models for heart function studies. This experiment could significantly advance understanding of how spaceflight affects the cardiovascular system and could help develop countermeasures to help astronauts.

Samples from the Systemic Therapy of NELL-1 for osteoporosis will return as part of an investigation using rodents as models to test a new drug that can both rebuild bone and block further bone loss, improving crew health. When people and animals spend extended periods of time in space, they experience bone density loss, or osteoporosis. In-flight countermeasures, such as exercise, prevent it from getting worse, but there isn’t a therapy on Earth or in space that can restore bone density. The results from this ISS National Laboratory-sponsored investigation is built on previous research also supported by the National Institutes for Health and could lead to new drugs for treating bone density loss in millions of people on Earth.

The Cardiac Stem Cells experiment investigated how microgravity affects stem cells and the factors that govern stem cell activity. The study focuses on understanding cardiac stem cell function, which has numerous biomedical and commercial applications. Scientists will also look to apply new knowledge to the design of new stem cell therapies to treat heart disease on Earth.

The Dragon spacecraft launched June 3 on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from historic Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, and arrived at the station June 5.

Keep up with the International Space Station, and its research and crew members, at www.nasa.gov/station

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Dragon En Route to Monday Rendezvous

A SpaceX Dragon spacecraft and nearly three tons of cargo including scientific equipment will rendezvous with the International Space Station on Monday morning. Astronaut Jack Fischer, one of the station’s resident crew members, will steer the robotic arm on the orbital laboratory to grapple the uncrewed Dragon. Ground controllers will operate the arm to maneuver the Dragon to a port on the station where the astronauts will open the hatch and unpack the spacecraft. NASA TV will begin covering the rendezvous at 8:30 a.m. Monday. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

News Conference at 6:30 to Discuss Liftoff, Mission

NASA and SpaceX officials will discuss today’s launch and the CRS-11 mission goals during a news conference at 6:30 p.m. ET that will air on NASA TV. A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft lifted off from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 5:07 p.m. The Dragon is carrying nearly 6,000 pounds of equipment and supplies, including research gear for a range of scientific experiments that are to be performed aboard the International Space Station. Photo credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

CRS-11 Begins with Spectacular Launch from Historic Pad

Nearly three tons of research gear, supplies and hardware are on their way to the International Space Station following the liftoff this evening of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with a Dragon cargo spacecraft. The launch marked the 100th time a mission launched from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Launch occurred at 5:07 p.m. to cap a smooth countdown.

Now in orbit with its twin solar arrays open to generate power for the spacecraft systems, the Dragon is on course to rendezvous with the space station Monday, June 5. Astronaut Jack Fischer, working inside the station, will grapple the spacecraft with the station’s 57-foot-long robotic arm before ground controllers move the Dragon to a port on the station so the crew can unpack it.

Dragon will remain connected to the station until early July so astronauts can unpack the spacecraft and fill it with spent materials such as concluded experiments and hardware no longer needed in orbit.

Numerous experiments are packed inside the pressurized area of the Dragon, including experiments that will enhance study of the heart in microgravity, study microbials aboard the space station and enhance research on plants to be grown in orbit.

Along with the cargo inside the Dragon, three research elements also are packed inside the trunk that will be mounted on the outside of the station.

NICER, an instrument dedicated to studying the physics of neutron stars, will use the vantage point of the space station to gain unprecedented insight into the fast-spinning objects. The payload includes a technology demonstrator called SEXTANT to help researchers develop a pulsar-based space navigation system that could do for space navigation what GPS systems have done for Earth.

A technology demonstrator called ROSA also will be connected to the station’s exterior during the CRS-11 mission. Short for Roll Out Solar Array, the ROSA demonstrator will test a lightweight mechanism to deploy solar panels in space. The device may be used on future spacecraft to generate electricity. It cannot be fully tested on Earth because of the presence of gravity.

The MUSES platform will be moved from the Dragon to a position on the station where it can point instruments toward the Earth for a variety of observational missions ranging from agriculture and food security to oil and gas exploration.