On Wednesday, May 11, 2016, the SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft, carrying valuable science research, will depart from the International Space Station (ISS) and return to Earth. NASA Television will provide live coverage of Dragon’s departure beginning at 9 a.m. EDT. Watch here.
The Dragon spacecraft, which arrived at the station on April 10, 2016 with almost 7,000 pounds of cargo, will be detached from the Earth-facing side of the station’s Harmony module using a robotic arm operated by ground controllers at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. Robotics controllers will maneuver Dragon into place. Aboard the ISS, robotic arm operator Tim Peake of ESA (European Space Agency) will execute the command for the Dragon’s 9:18 a.m. EDT release.
Dragon will fire its thrusters three times to move to a safe distance from the station before being commanded to begin its deorbit burn about 2 p.m. EDT. The capsule will splash down in the Pacific Ocean about 2:55 p.m. EDT. The deorbit burn and splashdown will not be broadcast on NASA TV.
A recovery team will retrieve the capsule and its more than 3,700 pounds of return cargo, including samples from ongoing space station research, which ultimately will be shipped to laboratories for further study. This cargo includes samples from human research, biology and biotechnology studies, physical science investigations and education activities. The spacecraft also will return the final batch of human research samples from the one-year crew mission.
In the event of adverse weather conditions in the Pacific, the backup departure and splashdown date is Saturday, May 14, 2016.
Dragon, the only space station resupply spacecraft able to return to Earth intact, launched April 8, 2016 on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, for the company’s eighth NASA-contracted commercial resupply mission to the station.
Bottom line: The SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft, carrying valuable science research, will depart from the International Space Station (ISS) and return to Earth on May 11, 2016. NASA TV will provide live coverage of the departure.
Eleanor Imster has helped write and edit EarthSky since 1995. She was an integral part of the award-winning EarthSky radio series almost since it began until it ended in 2013. Today, as Lead Editor at EarthSky.org, she helps present the science and nature stories and photos you enjoy. She also serves as one of the voices of EarthSky on social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter and G+. She and her husband live in Tennessee and have two grown sons.