SpaceX’s “Dragon” cargo spacecraft embarks on its final voyage

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SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket launched the “Dragon” cargo spacecraft on Friday (March 6) midnight from Cape Canaveral. The spacecraft is expected to arrive at the International Space Station(ISS) by Monday, March 9.

Space X classifies its Dragon cargo spacecraft as a “Long” cargo spacecraft. The spacecraft have visited the Space Station twice before in February 2017 and December 2018. A third visit is shortly expected. The spacecraft delivery is part of the commercial resupply service contract with NASA.

The current resupply mission is officially termed as CRS-20 as it is the 20th flight to International Space Station. This is the final flight of SpaceX’s contract with NASA. SpaceX had signed the contract worth 1.6 billion dollars with NASA in 2008. NASA also collaborates with the “Swan” cargo ship for its missions. The “Swan” cargo ship is owned by Northrop Grumman.

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One of SpaceX’s proudest moments came in 2012 when The first “Long” cargo spacecraft became the first commercial spacecraft to dock with the ISS. SpaceX plans to move on from “Dragon” to second-generation Dragon 2 cargo spacecraft from October onwards. The second-generation is designed to complete more space flights compared to its predecessor.

Also, it can perform independent docking at the ISS. The biggest development is that Dragon 2 will be a manned spacecraft capable of taking a crew and hence will include life support systems, seats and launch escape features in place.

Since 2012, the Dragon cargo ship in-service has transported over 40 tons of cargo to the ISS and returned with over 30 tons of cargo to the earth. In its final voyage, it carried 1950 kilograms of supplies which include scientific equipment for research and experiment.

Some of the experiments include stem cell growth in microgravity, a study on bowel function. These experiments will help in the treatment of heart disease, and also improve our understanding of organ function and immune system.

The Dragon spacecraft will spend a month at the International Space Station before returning to earth with the research results.

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