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Dragon Departs Station and Heads Back to Earth for Splashdown

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Ground controllers released the SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft from the International Space Station’s robotic arm at 4:58 a.m. EST. The capsule will begin a series of departure burns and maneuvers to move beyond the “keep out sphere” around the station for its return trip to Earth.

Dragon’s thrusters will be fired to move the spacecraft a safe distance from the station before SpaceX flight controllers in Hawthorne, California, command its deorbit burn about 9:43 a.m. The capsule will splashdown about 10:36 a.m. in the Pacific Ocean, where recovery forces will retrieve the capsule and its nearly 4,100 pounds of cargo. This cargo will include science samples from human and animal research, external payloads, biology and biotechnology studies, physical science investigations and education activities.

The deorbit burn and splashdown will not be broadcast on NASA TV.

NASA and the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), the non-profit organization that manages research aboard the U.S. national laboratory portion of the space station, will receive time-sensitive samples and begin working with researchers to process and distribute them within 48 hours of splashdown.

Dragon, the only space station resupply spacecraft currently able to return to Earth intact, launched Dec. 15 on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, and arrived at the station Dec. 17 for the company’s 13th NASA-contracted commercial resupply mission.

Keep up with the International Space Station, and its research and crew members, at www.nasa.gov/station.

Courtesy: NASA

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