SpaceX’s cargo Dragon spacecraft splashed down in the Gulf of Mexico off the west coast of Florida around 8:30 p.m. ET Wednesday with 4,400 pounds of scientific research and other cargo.
It marks the completion of SpaceX’s 21st cargo resupply mission to the International Space Station. The company launched the Dragon with 6,400 pounds of supplies in tow on a Falcon 9 rocket back on Dec. 6.
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The research material on board will quickly be transported to the Kennedy Space Center’s Space Station Processing Facility within four to nine hours. Cargo from previous splashdowns in the Pacific Ocean had to be transported to SpaceX and NASA’s facilities in Texas.
Some of the science on board will contribute to research into “how changes in gravity affect cardiovascular cells at the cellular and tissue level using 3D-engineered heart tissues,” according to a NASA press announcement.
Other research as a result of the trip will examine the “advantages of using microgravity for cutting-edge developments in regenerative medicine,” and “specific techniques for using a sextant for emergency navigation on spacecraft such as NASA’s Orion.”
This upgraded cargo Dragon capsule allowed for the mission to carry 20% more cargo than the previous version of the ship as well as increase the amount of science and research to bring home.
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This Dragon spacecraft also autonomously docked and undocked at the International Space Station for the first time ever, as the robotic Canadarm2 was used by astronauts to attach previous cargo ships.
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