SpaceX Dragon cargo capsule finally reached the International Space Station (ISS) on Wednesday, April 4, at 6:40 a.m. EDT (1040 GMT) after a two-day orbital chase.
The cargo vehicle was launched on Monday, April 2, aboard SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. The ISS astronauts snagged the Dragon spacecraft using the orbiting lab’s huge Canadarm2 robotic arm.
Both the Dragon spacecraft as well as the Falcon 9 rocket’s booster have been used previously. The Dragon capsule was used in the CRS-8 mission in April 2016, while the booster on the Falcon 9 rocket helped to launch SpaceX’s CRS-12 cargo mission in August 2017.
The ISS Expedition 55 crew will begin unloading the Dragon spacecraft, which is currently filled with 5,800 lbs. (2,630 kilograms) of supplies and science experiments, on Thursday. The science experiments will enable the astronauts in the orbiting space lab to study how to optimize plant growth in space, study thunderstorms, and anti-cancer drugs.
Also aboard Dragon is a RemoveDebris spacecraft, weighing around 220 pounds, or 100 kilograms, which will be used to test ways to clean up space debris in the near future. The astronauts will use the spacecraft to run a couple of experiments that will test the utility of nets and harpoons to capture and destroy space debris. The experiments will be conducted either at the end of May or at the beginning of June.
The Dragon spacecraft will remain at the International Space Station until next month, after which the astronauts will load it up with about 3,900 lbs. (1,800 kg) of cargo from the station and send it back to Earth. The capsule will splashdown in the Pacific Ocean off Baja California, where SpaceX personnel will retrieve it with the help of a boat. Notably, SpaceX didn’t try to retrieve the Falcon 9 rocket that launched the capsule Monday as it wasn’t designed to fly more than twice.