SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft has successfully splashed down in the Pacific Ocean on Tuesday, following its departure from the International Space Station (ISS). Known as End Of Mission (EOM) operations, Dragon’s safe return completed the second mission under NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) contract.
SpaceX CRS-2 EOM:
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Following a nominal launch from Cape Canaveral’s SLC-40 – with the launch vehicle showing no signs of repeating it’s Engine 1 issue from the previous ride uphill – Dragon begin its journey to the ISS.
However, a challenging issue was noted – just moments after it separated from the Falcon 9’s Second Stage – relating to the spacecraft’s propulsion system – which consists of a set of four “quads”, each hosting thrusters on the Dragon, vital for attitude control and required burns en route to the Station.
Dragon’s trunk is designed to carry additional cargo outside of its pressurized cabin – such as Orbital Replacement Units (ORUs).
These payloads will be – for the most part – removed by the Dextre (SPDM) robot over the course of the CRS contract, prior to being translated to staging points on the ISS, such as the External Platforms, ahead of installation via a Stage EVA.
During the debut operation on CRS-2, the SSRMS was tasked with the removal of two Heat Rejection Subsystem Grapple Fixtures (HRSGFs) – which are essentially bars each featuring two Flight Releasable Grapple Fixtures (FRGFs) – from Dragon’s trunk.
The HRSGFs were successfully removed from Dragon’s Trunk robotically by the SSRMS, whereupon they were installed onto the Payload ORU Accommodation (POA) on the Mobile Base System (MBS) on the ISS Truss, where they will each await respective installation onto the S1 and P1 Truss radiators during a US spacewalk in July.
Dragon still has another important payload task to complete – albeit one day later than planned due to high seas in the splasdown zone – as 2, 668 pounds of “downmass” was packed into the spacecraft for its return to Earth. With the hatch closed, the focus will again return to the ISS’ robotic assets.
To kick off the homecoming, the long sequence of events that will ultimately lead to Dragon safely bobbing the Pacific Ocean began with 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.
Once complete, the ISS crew pulled Dragon away from the ISS via the use of the Space Station Remote Manipulator System (SSRMS) – which grappled Dragon at the end of last week – controlled from the Robotic Workstation (RWS) in the panoramic-viewed Cupola.
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