Redesigned SpaceX cargo Dragon launched to NASA’s International Space Station

The new spacecraft possesses a significantly higher carrying capacity than its predecessors, and is also able to dock autonomously with the Space Station.

Redesigned SpaceX cargo Dragon launched to NASA’s International Space Station
Redesigned SpaceX cargo Dragon launched to NASA’s International Space Station

Redesigned SpaceX cargo Dragon launched to NASA’s International Space Station

On Sunday, December 6th, SpaceX launched its 21st Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) mission for NASA’s International Space Station, using a completely new variant of its Dragon capsule spacecraft. The new spacecraft possesses a significantly higher carrying capacity than its predecessors, and is also able to dock autonomously with the Space Station, reported TechCrunch.

This marks the redesigned cargo Dragon’s first launch, as well as the first of SpaceX’s new series of CRS missions, under a new contract with NASA. With a 20% higher carrying capacity, the spacecraft is transporting 6,400 lbs of supplies for the Space Station and its crew, as well as experimental supplies and research equipment. In addition, it is also boasts of double the number of powered lockers, which facilitate climate-controlled transportation of experimental material.

The new design includes several modifications to the Crew Dragon spacecraft used in May’s Demo-2 mission, and November’s Crew-1 flight. The Super Draco engines equipped on the crew version, which could quickly push the capsule away from the Falcon 9 in case of emergencies, has been removed, and the spacecraft can be reused up to five times, compared to just three, for the previous version.

The launch also marks SpaceX’s 100th successful Falcon 9 take-off, 43 of which have been operated using recovered and refurbished boosters. The mission also includes recovering the Falcon 9 first stage, which has been flown four times till now. It is also the 68th successful booster landing for SpaceX, so far.

The next CRS mission is a rendezvous between the cargo Dragon and the ISS, scheduled to take place on Monday, December 14th. The capsule will autonomously dock with one of the Station’s new, specially designed international docking adapters. This will also be the second Dragon to dock at the station, as SpaceX’s Crew Dragon is still there, from November’s crew mission.