SpaceX docked its Cargo Dragon capsule with the International Space Station on Monday, marking the first time the company has two spacecraft simultaneously attached to the orbiting laboratory.
The Cargo Dragon spacecraft for NASA's CRS-21 mission, carrying about 6,500 pounds of research and supplies, arrived at the space station as it flew over the southern Indian Ocean. The capsule docked with the ISS near where SpaceX's Crew Dragon spacecraft Resilience is attached, the latter of which launched on Nov. 15.
"It's pretty amazing to think that less than a month ago you docked four crew members to the International Space Station and now you're bringing a vehicle full of world-class science for us to execute. Thank you," NASA astronaut Kate Rubins said, speaking from on board the space station.
From now on, SpaceX expects to have at least one spacecraft constantly docked with the International Space Station as the company flies regular crew and cargo missions for NASA and other organizations. SpaceX is building a small fleet of its Dragon capsules, with work being done to have five of the Crew Dragon variation and plans for three of the Cargo Dragon variation.
"Dragons everywhere you look," NASA deputy International Space Station program manager Kenny Todd said ahead of the CRS-21 mission.
In addition to new research, the CRS-21 mission is carrying a "Holiday Menu" of foods for the astronauts, who will be in space for several more months. NASA's festive menu includes roasted turkey, macaroni and cheese, cherry blueberry cobbler, shortbread cookies, and more.
Also on board CRS-21 is a new airlock for the space station, privately funded and developed by spaceflight infrastructure company Nanoracks. Called the "Bishop Airlock," the new hardware will be installed on the American side of the ISS, and will help deploy cube satellites, jettison trash, and assist astronauts in recovering external pieces of the space station when replacements are required.
"Bishop will be a privately funded service allowing NASA to follow the agency goal of serving as one of many customers for commercial services in space, expanding the low-Earth orbit market beyond just government-provided products and services," Nanoracks said in a press release. "The Bishop Airlock is the first step in building in-space infrastructure, to be followed with demonstrations and missions for the Nanoracks Space Outpost Program."
Installation of the Nanoracks' airlock is scheduled to begin on Dec. 19, a process that will take about a week.
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