A SpaceX Dragon cargo resupply spacecraft filled with more than 4,600 pounds of supplies and valuable scientific experiments bound for NASA’s Space Station Processing Facility is set to leave the International Space Station Thursday, Sept. 30. NASA Television, the agency’s website, and the NASA app will broadcast the spacecraft’s departure live, beginning at 8:45 a.m. EDT.
Ground controllers at SpaceX in Hawthorne, California, will command Dragon to undock from the forward port on the station’s Harmony module at 9:05 a.m. NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough will monitor the process from inside the station’s Cupola. Cargo Dragon will fire its thrusters to move a safe distance away from the station prior to a deorbit burn later in the day that will begin its re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere.
The spacecraft will make parachute-assisted splashdown around 11 p.m. off the coast of Florida. NASA Television will not broadcast the splashdown live, but will provide updates on the space station blog.
Splashing down off the coast of Florida enables quick transportation of the science aboard the capsule to NASA’s Space Station Processing Facility at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The experiments were designed to take advantage of microgravity aboard the space station – the short transportation timeframe allows researchers to collect data from them with minimal sample exposure to Earth’s gravity.
The departing Dragon spacecraft delivered more than 4,800 pounds of research investigations, crew supplies, and vehicle hardware to the station for SpaceX’s 23rd Commercial Resupply Services mission. It launched Sunday, Aug. 29, on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy and arrived at the orbiting laboratory about 32 hours later.
Some of the scientific investigations Dragon will return to Earth include:
- Ring Sheared Drop examines the formation and flow of abnormal proteins, called amyloids, in the absence of solid walls, which can influence chemical interactions. Results could contribute to a better understanding of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, as well as the development of advanced materials.
- Anti-Atrophy tests the ability of biomaterials to inhibit muscle atrophy in microgravity. Results may lead to the production of pharmaceuticals to prevent muscle atrophy, not only for astronauts in space, but also for the elderly on Earth.
- Genes in Space-8 tests a technology for monitoring gene expression in space. This test could lead to a better understanding of spaceflight-induced changes in liver gene expression and may support the development of new therapies that can account for the body’s adaptations to spaceflight.