SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft has concluded her successful mission to the International Space Station (ISS) with a return to Earth on Saturday. The EOM (End Of Mission) events began with an unberthing and release of the CRS-4/SpX-4 spacecraft from the orbital outpost, ahead of a parachute-assisted splashdown in the Pacific Ocean at around 15:38 Eastern.
CRS-3 Dragon – EOM:
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Grabbed by the tail by Canada’s Space Station Remote Manipulator System (SSRMS), Dragon was carefully translated towards her orbital on the Earth facing port of the Harmony module.
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Known as the ISS-RapidScat, the experiment was attached on the end of the Station’s Columbus laboratory, via the use of the Station’s robotic assets that are now well-versed in removing and installing hardware from the Dragon’s trunk.
The experiment – now studying Earth’s ocean surface wind speed and direction, returns a lost capability when the SeaWinds scatterometer aboard NASA’s then 10-year-old QuikScat satellite experienced an age-related antenna failure – is a low cost project, assembled from spare components left over from the development of QuikScat and ADEOS II.
To kick off the homecoming, the long sequence of events – that will ultimately lead to Dragon safely bobbing up and down in the Pacific Ocean – saw the ISS crew initiate the unberthing of Dragon from the Node 2 Nadir CBM, via the release of 16 bolts around the CBM berthing collar on the ISS side, performed in four sets of four bolts to ensure even unloading on the CBM interface.
With the SSRMS holding on to the Dragon – and the bolts released through the opposite process that saw first and second stage capture – the ISS crew will used the “big arm” to pull Dragon away from the port, controlled from the Robotic Workstation (RWS) in the panoramic-viewed Cupola.
Dragon was then maneuvered to the release position approximately 30 feet below the ISS.
Once in the release position, the time came for Dragon and the ISS to part ways, via a squeeze of the trigger on the Rotational Hand Controller (RHC) on the RWS.
This was initiated by the release of the snares holding the SSRMS Latching End Effector (LEE) to the Dragon Flight Releasable Grapple Fixture (FRGF) – effectively “letting go” of Dragon.
This process concluded with a 09:56 Eastern release of SpaceX’s Dragon.
With the SSRMS retracted safely clear of the spacecraft, Dragon then conducted three departure burns to depart to vicinity of the ISS, edging away from the orbital outpost, with small thruster firings to push down the R-Bar.
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