The Dragon commercial cargo craft has completed a two day trip to the International Space Station after launching early Sunday morning. NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman and European Space Agency astronaut Alexander Gerst were at the controls of the robotics workstation in the Cupola when the Canadarm2 grappled Dragon at 6:52 a.m. EDT Tuesday. Dragon will spend the next four weeks attached to the Harmony node as the Expedition 41 trio unloads 4,885 pounds of (2,216 kg) crew supplies, hardware, experiments, computer gear and spacewalk equipment. This is the fourth SpaceX mission for NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services contract, designated SpaceX CRS-4, with eight more missions slated to deliver a minimum of 20 metric tons to the station.
One of the new Earth science experiments Dragon has delivered is the ISS-Rapid Scatterometer to be installed outside the Columbus laboratory. The remote sensing instrument will use radar pulses to observe the speed and direction of winds over the ocean for the improvement of weather forecasting.
ISS-RapidScat replaces a similar device, QuickScat, which is an inoperable satellite orbiting Earth that performed the same functionality. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory partnered with the International Space Station Program Office to quickly deploy RapidScat which is actually a spare QuickScat device modified for operations on the space station.
Another experiment, one designed by students, will observe fruit flies as a research model for learning how diseases work at the cellular and molecular levels. Ames Research Center has partnered with NanoRacks, a private firm with research facilities on the station, and the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) to support the Ames Student Fruit-Fly Experiment (AFEX) on the orbital laboratory.
At the end of its stay Dragon will be filled with cargo to be returned to Earth where it will be retrieved in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Baja California after splashdown. Nearly 3,300 pounds (1,486 kg) of cargo will be packed inside Dragon including research for analysis by scientists and computer parts and vehicle hardware to be checked out by engineers.
The next Commercial Resupply Services mission to the space station is Orbital-3 which is targeted to begin Oct. 14 when Orbital Sciences will launch its Cygnus spacecraft from Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. SpaceX is scheduled to make another flight, SpaceX CRS-5, at the beginning of December for a one month stay, the final mission of the year to the station.
Three new Expedition 41 crew members will arrive at the station after they launch Thursday at 4:25 p.m. EDT. Soyuz Commander Alexander Samokutyaev and Flight Engineers Barry Wilmore and Elena Serova are at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan making final preparations for their six-hour, four-orbit ride to the station’s Poisk docking compartment inside the Soyuz TMA-14M spacecraft.
Right now the station is home to three space residents, Commander Max Suraev of Roscosmos, Flight Engineer Reid Wiseman of NASA and Flight Engineer Alexander Gerst of the European Space Agency. They are scheduled to return home Nov. 10 Kazakh time after a 5-1/2 month mission that began May 28.
More Info: NASA