COTS 2+ Mission Highlights: Dragon makes History

August 31, 2016 – 08:24 pm
Rendition of Dragon SpaceX petitioned, and subsequently received approval in July 2011, to merge COTS missions 2 & 3 into one flight where Dragon would both rendezvous and berth simultaneously. Dragon successfully launched aboard the third Falcon 9 flight on 22 May 2012, and managed to complete all mission objectives within three days, becoming the first private spacecraft to berth with the ISS, and it remains the only current servicing spacecraft with the ability to return cargo from the station (up to 3000kg of it).

Following a successful liftoff, first stage separation, and second stage shutoff; Dragon jettisoned its nosecone, separated from the vehicle, and deployed its solar arrays. Over the next three days, Dragon performed a variety of orbital maneuvers, including a lap around the space station, before being grappled with Canadarm2 by astronaut Don Pettit once within the keep out zone of the ISS.

On flight day 5, after evaluating air quality inside the Dragon, the crew opened the hatch and climbed into Dragon for the first time. 520kg of pressurized cargo was transferred to the station, and when the hatched was closed on the last day of flight, contained 660kg of cargo to bring back to Earth. After being unberthed and the grapple of Canadarm2 being released, Dragon backed away from the station, far enough to perform a nine minute long deorbit burn, which landed it 900km off the coast of Baja California in the Pacific.

An unannounced addition to the cargo manifest included a capsule containing the ashes of over 300 people aboard a Celestis payload affixed to the top of the second stage. No other secondary payloads were included. On 23 August 2012, with Dragon successfully completing all requirements, NASA cleared SpaceX to begin operational resupply missions under the Commercial Resupply Services program, ending COTS.


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  • avatar Was the Dragon cargo ship built by NASA?
    • SpaceX is a private-sector space exploration company that hopes to take the place of the US Space Shuttle program. On May 19th 2012 they are testing both their reusable Falcon 9 rocket and solar-powered remote-controlled Dragon cargo ship.