WASHINGTON – A commercial cargo ship that arrived at the International Space Station on Oct. 10 is due to return to Earth on Sunday (Oct. 28), ending the first commercial resupply mission to the orbiting outpost.
NASA contractor Space Exploration Technologies Inc. (SpaceX, Hawthorne, Calif.) said space station crew members are expected to release the unmanned Dragon cargo ship about 6:25 a.m. PDT on Sunday. First they must use a robotic arm to detach Dragon from its docking port, then release the spacecraft a safe distance from the station. [Get a 10% discount on ARM TechCon 2012 conference passes by using promo code EDIT. Click here to learn about the show and register.]
A series of thruster burns will then move Dragon away from the station in preparation for a de-orbit burn. Prior to the burn, SpaceX controllers will jettison the spacecraft’s “trunk” and solar arrays in preparation for reentry.
Dragon will be released by a robotic arm before a de-orbit burn.
During reentry, drogues parachutes will be deployed at about 45,000 feet to slow the spacecraft before deployment of three main chutes at about 10,000 feet. Splashdown is scheduled for 12:20 p.m. PDT on Sunday, SpaceX said.
Dragon, which delivered about 1,000 pounds of hardware, experiments and other supplies to the station, will return biological samples stored in the station’s freezers since the space shuttle was retired last year.
The SpaceX mission is the first of 12 resupply trips under a NASA contract. Dragon was successfully berthed to the space station for the first time in May.
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