Final Phase for Dragon: ISS Crew’s Pre-Exit Rush and the Cygnus Adjustment

by Amir Hussein
SpaceX Dragon ISS Mission

The SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft’s thrusters autonomously ignite, guiding its gradual, precise journey towards the International Space Station to dock at the Harmony module’s forward port. Image courtesy of NASA.

Ahead of its scheduled Wednesday departure, the Expedition 70 team is busy preparing a U.S. cargo vehicle. The International Space Station’s (ISS) seven members continue their regular research and upkeep tasks.

NASA astronauts Loral O’Hara and Jasmin Moghbeli collaborated on Tuesday to transfer biological samples from the Destiny lab module, securing them in transport containers, and then loading the scientific materials into the SpaceX Dragon cargo ship. O’Hara concluded her day conducting an eye examination using a typical eye chart similar to those in terrestrial clinics. Moghbeli engaged in studying brain cell analogs to probe neurodegenerative mechanisms at both molecular and cellular levels.

Expedition 70 Flight Engineers Jasmin Moghbeli and Loral O’Hara of NASA, pictured in the Destiny lab module after the successful attachment of the SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft to the International Space Station. Image courtesy of NASA.

Astronauts Andreas Mogensen and Satoshi Furukawa spent the afternoon transferring and securing various hardware items within Dragon for earthbound analysis and recovery. Mogensen, representing ESA (European Space Agency), earlier attended to several scientific apparatus, including charging virtual reality devices, updating software on a fluorescence microscope, and preparing the Life Science Glovebox for Moghbeli’s experiment. JAXA’s (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) Furukawa installed new gas canisters in the combustion research equipment within the Kibo lab module.

In the ISS’s Roscosmos section, cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko operated a 3D printer to experiment with tool and supply printing in microgravity. Flight Engineer Nikolai Chub conducted radio antenna tests and explored improved communication strategies between space crews and ground control across the globe. Flight Engineer Konstantin dedicated his morning to orbital plumbing tasks and spent the afternoon examining windows in the Zvezda service module and sanitizing surfaces in the Nauka science module.

The SpaceX Cargo Dragon resupply ship is shown leaving the station in September 2021 during an earlier cargo mission. Image courtesy of NASA.

After a meteorological assessment approximately 24 hours before undocking, NASA and SpaceX have decided to target no earlier than 9:05 p.m. EST on Wednesday, December 20, for the detachment of Dragon’s 29th commercial resupply mission from the International Space Station.

Live coverage of Dragon’s Wednesday departure will start at 8:45 p.m. on NASA+ streaming service via the web or the NASA app. This will also be broadcast on NASA Television, YouTube, and the agency’s website. Instructions for streaming NASA TV on various platforms, including social media, are available.

Additional undocking and return times are being evaluated as joint teams determine the most favorable autonomous undocking and return conditions amid a cold front affecting the splashdown areas near Florida. Further updates will follow the next weather review, roughly 12 hours before Dragon’s separation from the space station.

Dragon’s re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere and splashdown off Florida’s coast will not be televised on NASA TV.

In the forefront, the sunlit, cymbal-shaped solar array of Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus spacecraft is shadowed by other external station components, with the teal Bahamian waters below forming a striking contrast. This photo was taken as the International Space Station orbited 259 miles above Earth. Image courtesy of NASA.

Due to alterations in Dragon’s space station procedures, NASA and Northrop Grumman are now scheduling the Cygnus spacecraft’s departure from the orbital complex for Friday, December 22.

The Cygnus spacecraft’s Friday release will be broadcast starting at 7:45 a.m., leading up to the robotic unberthing at 8:05 a.m. on the NASA+ streaming service, accessible via the web or the NASA app. This will also be shown live on NASA Television, YouTube, and the agency’s website.

Following its unberthing, Cygnus will carry out secondary payload operations and will eventually re-enter Earth’s atmosphere, disintegrating harmlessly over the Pacific Ocean.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about SpaceX Dragon ISS Mission

What is the purpose of SpaceX Dragon’s approach toward the International Space Station?

The SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft’s thrusters autonomously ignite to guide its gradual, precise approach towards the International Space Station for docking, aimed at delivering supplies and supporting ISS Expedition 70’s ongoing research and maintenance activities.

Who are the key astronauts involved in the ISS Expedition 70 and what are their tasks?

NASA astronauts Loral O’Hara and Jasmin Moghbeli are key members of the ISS Expedition 70 crew. They are responsible for transferring biological samples, conducting scientific experiments, and maintaining the overall functionality of the ISS modules.

What are the primary activities of astronauts Andreas Mogensen and Satoshi Furukawa on the ISS?

Astronauts Andreas Mogensen and Satoshi Furukawa are focused on transferring and securing various hardware items within the SpaceX Dragon for analysis and retrieval on Earth. Their tasks also include attending to scientific apparatus like virtual reality devices and combustion research equipment.

What is the planned departure schedule for the SpaceX Dragon and Cygnus spacecraft from the ISS?

The SpaceX Dragon is scheduled to undock no earlier than 9:05 p.m. EST on Wednesday, December 20, while the Cygnus spacecraft is targeting a departure from the ISS for Friday, December 22.

Will the departure of the SpaceX Dragon and Cygnus spacecraft from the ISS be broadcasted?

The departure of SpaceX Dragon will be broadcasted live starting at 8:45 p.m. on various NASA platforms. However, the re-entry and splashdown of Dragon off Florida’s coast will not be televised. The Cygnus spacecraft’s unberthing will be broadcast starting at 7:45 a.m. on the scheduled day.

More about SpaceX Dragon ISS Mission

  • SpaceX Dragon Mission Updates
  • ISS Expedition 70 Crew Activities
  • NASA Astronauts on ISS
  • SpaceX and NASA Joint Missions
  • International Space Station Research
  • Live Streaming of Spacecraft Departures
  • Northrop Grumman Cygnus Spacecraft
  • Space Exploration News and Updates

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RocketRacer December 20, 2023 - 9:08 am

heard about the Cygnus departure, Friday’s gonna be a big day for space fans! wonder how they manage all that in microgravity.

AstroGeek456 December 20, 2023 - 11:54 am

is it just me or does space tech get cooler by the day? those astronauts are real heros, doing all that complex science up there.

StarGazerLily December 20, 2023 - 2:46 pm

Does anyone else find it amazing how we can watch these missions live?? It’s like sci-fi becoming reality.

CosmosCurious December 21, 2023 - 6:24 am

i always get mixed up, is Dragon a cargo or crew spacecraft? Either way, kudos to SpaceX and NASA for this feat!

SpaceFan99 December 21, 2023 - 7:22 am

Wow, this Dragon mission sounds exciting, can’t wait to see the docking on NASA TV. hope the crew gets all their tasks done on time!


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