SpaceX Dragon Cargo Mission Docks To Space Station

The SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft autonomously docks to the International Space Station's Harmony module. 

Credit: NASA

HOUSTON—SpaceX’s 27th NASA-contracted resupply mission to the International Space Station autonomously docked to the ISS early March 16, delivering a 6,300-lb. cargo of crew supplies, equipment, and scientific research and technology development projects.

The Cargo Dragon capsule docked to the ISS U.S. segment Harmony module at 7:31 a.m. EDT. Dragon will remain parked there for about a month before descending to Earth to return time-sensitive science experiments.

The mission launched from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center atop a Falcon 9 rocket at 8:30 p.m. EDT on March 14.

The Harmony module’s forward docking port was made available with the departure of the SpaceX Crew-5 Dragon spacecraft with three NASA and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronauts and a Russian cosmonaut early March 11, with a splashdown in the Gulf of Mexico.

Following the launch of the latest SpaceX cargo mission and its arrival at the ISS, cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev, Dmitri Petelin and Andrey Fedyaev boarded the Soyuz MS-22 crew transport. The MS-22 experienced an external coolant leak Dec. 14 while docked to the ISS Russian segment, rendering the spacecraft unsafe for all but an emergency undocking and return to Earth with astronauts.

The trio closed but did not latch the hatch to the Soyuz MS-22 for a 3-hr., 45-min. test to simulate the thermal and humidity levels the spacecraft would be expected to experience during an emergency return to Earth. The findings could be of value should a similar Russian spacecraft need to make a hasty return to Earth in the future, a March 15 NASA ISS status update said.

Roscosmos, the Russian space agency, elected to launch the Soyuz MS-23 as a replacement on Feb. 23. The new crew transport arrived at the ISS for a Feb. 25 docking to provide emergency and scheduled transportation back to Earth for three of the orbital lab’s seven crewmembers.

NASA astronaut Frank Rubio, Prokopyev and Petelin, who launched to the ISS aboard the Soyuz MS-22 on Sept. 21, 2022, are now in an extended mission due to the coolant leak that will conclude later this year aboard the Soyuz MS-23.

The damaged Soyuz MS-22 is scheduled to depart the ISS uncrewed on March 28 for a parachute-assisted descent and recovery in remote Kazakhstan.

Mark Carreau

Mark is based in Houston, where he has written on aerospace for more than 25 years. While at the Houston Chronicle, he was recognized by the Rotary National Award for Space Achievement Foundation in 2006 for his professional contributions to the public understanding of America's space program through news reporting.