A SpaceX shipment has delivered a bonanza of science experiments to the International Space Station.
The SpaceX Dragon capsule pulled up following a two-day flight from Cape Canaveral. NASA astronaut Jack Fischer used the space station’s hefty robot arm to grab the Dragon 250m (400km) above the Pacific, near New Zealand.
The Dragon holds three tons of cargo, mostly research. The extra-large science load includes a cosmic ray monitor, a mini satellite with cheap, off-the-shelf scopes for potential military viewing, and 20 mice for an eye and brain study.
Lucky for the station’s six-person crew, a big variety of ice cream is also stashed away in freezers, including birthday cake flavor. It just so happens astronaut Randolph Bresnik turns 50 next month.
“Congratulations on a job well done,” Mission Control radioed from Houston. “You guys have just won yourselves some fresh food.”
Fischer said he was honored to catch the 12th Dragon contracted by NASA, the last one under the original agreement with more on the way under new deals. It’s a testament to the commercial space effort, which “has become a pillar of support” to NASA, he said.
“The crew stands ready to rock the science like a boss,” Fischer said, giving a rundown on the research inside the Dragon’s “belly.”
It’s enough for more than 250 experiments in the coming months, he noted.
“Need to get back to work. We’ve got a Dragon to unload,” Fischer told Mission Control.
SpaceX is one of NASA’s two prime shippers for station supplies. Orbital ATK is the other; its next delivery is in November from Wallops Island, Virginia. The two companies have taken over the cargo hauls formerly handled by NASA’s now retired space shuttles.