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SpaceX & NASA launch Cargo Dragon: When does it arrive at the International Space Station?

SpaceX crosses another milestone with the 100th successful launch of its Falcon 9 rocket carrying a more spacious Dragon cargo capsule to resupply the ISS.

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SpaceX & NASA launch Cargo Dragon: When does it arrive at the International Space Station?

SpaceX successfully launched another resupply mission to the International Space Station on a redesigned version of its Dragon cargo capsule with more capacity and autonomy. This marks the company’s 21st Commercial Resupply Services mission (CRS-21) for NASA to the ISS and will be the first time two Dragon capsules are docked simultaneously on the space station.

This latest launch comes on the heels of another in mid-November when SpaceX sent four astronauts to the ISS aboard the “Resilience” which is still docked with the station. The company has now sent two manned craft into space including its trial run in May. The CRS-21 will dock with the Harmony module Monday afternoon a little over 24 hours after it launched.

SpaceX and NASA

The US lost its capacity to take astronauts to the ISS in 2011 when NASA retired its fleet of shuttles to focus resources on sending astronauts beyond low-Earth orbit. The US astronauts had had to hitch rides on Russian rockets to get to the space station until this past spring when two were carried aboard a Dragon capsule. NASA has been experimenting with a contract model where the space agency can buy seats aboard private company rockets to stimulate a commercial space marketplace.

Conceived in 2001 by Elon Musk, SpaceX has become the first privately-held enterprise to carry astronauts to the International Space Station. Born of the idea to make mankind a multiplanetary species, Musk has plans to land humans on Mars by 2026. The company is developing the Starship a new line of completely reusable space transportation system that will eventually replace its current Falcon rockets and Dragon capsules which are partially reusable.

The newest version of the Dragon capsule

The new Dragon cargo capsule is a modified version of the delivery vehicle SpaceX used to send astronauts to the ISS in the last two manned missions. The company removed the emergency engines it had placed on the manned version to get the astronauts out of harm's way in the event a mission needed to be aborted.

The cargo capsule also has more capacity able to carry 20 percent more equipment or 6,400 pounds of equipment and supplies. Furthermore it has twice the number of powered lockers for climate-controlled transportation of experimental material. The new system can be used up to five times compared to three for the previous model.

When the CRS-21 payload arrives at the space station the capsule will automatically dock on a new docking adaptor specifically designed for the procedure. This will be a first for a SpaceX cargo resupply mission.

What is onboard the CRS-21

As part of the payload the CRS-21 is carrying the Nanoracks Bishop Airlock, the first commercially owned and operated airlock. Once installed, will provide a variety of capabilities to the space station, such as payload hosting, robotics testing, and satellite deployment. It also will serve as an outside toolbox for crew members conducting spacewalks.

Additionally, the craft will bring a range of research gear that will support a variety of experiments in the life sciences, regenerative medicine and many other fields. And with the holidays at hand there will be some “Christmasy foods” for the astronauts onboard.

The capsule will be docked with the ISS for about a month before it returns with 5,200 pounds of research and return cargo, splashing down in the Atlantic Ocean.