Earlier this week, the International Space Station (ISS) received tonnes of equipment and supplies brought by two spacecraft, a Russian Progress and an American Dragon from the company SpaceX.
Progress 64, with over three tonnes of cargo on board, including fuel, docked with the Russian Pirs module on Monday after chasing behind the ISS for two days.
The Dragon cargo ship, containing almost 2.5 tonnes of cargo, was captured by the space station’s robotic arm on Wednesday and docked to the Harmony module.
The capsule was transporting equipment for the dozens of experiments to be conducted on board the space station over the coming months, including the first device for sequencing DNA in space.
It was also carrying an international adapter for docking spacecraft (IDA or International Docking Adapter). This will provide a standardised connecting point that can be used by all spacecraft, including Boeing’s Starliner CST-100 and the future Dragon passenger transport vehicle by SpaceX.
The IDA will be equipped with a guidance system that will enable spacecraft arriving at the ISS to perform automatic docking manoeuvres, without intervention from the crew. It will be lifted out of Dragon’s cargo bay using the ISS’ robotic arm and will be installed during a spacewalk in August.
Dragon, loaded with completed experiments and waste, will return to Earth in 5 weeks’ time, splashing down in the Pacific Ocean.
Progress 64 will remain docked for six months and will leave the ISS in mid-January 2017.