SpaceX Dragon Capsule to Return to Earth on Monday After Space Station Mission

A SpaceX Dragon capsule is due to return to Earth and splash down in the Gulf of Mexico near Panama City, Florida, on Monday afternoon.

The spacecraft undocked from the International Space Station (ISS) on Sunday morning, having launched up a batch of supplies on December 21 last year.

Dragon's cargo included a handheld bioprinter that uses a patient's skin cells to heal wounds; medicine intended to treat cancers; a plant kit to investigate the growth of roots in microgravity; crew supplies, and more. the delivery weighed more than 6,500 lbs.

Its delivery complete, Dragon is now heading back to Earth. Mission controllers will command it to fire its engines in order to exit Earth orbit and fall back down to the planet's surface.

After re-entering the atmosphere the capsule will deploy its parachutes and touch down at around 4:05 p.m. ET.

NASA is not due to broadcast live footage of the splashdown, but it will provide updates on the space station blog on NASA's website.

However, the space agency did show live footage of Dragon's departure from the ISS yesterday, which can be seen below.

SpaceX's Dragon capsules, as well as its Falcon 9 rocket boosters, are reusable. The particular Dragon capsule that will be touching down later today had already flown on a previous cargo resupply mission, SpX-22, which launched in June 2021.

Space enthusiasts won't have to wait long until the next SpaceX launch. On January 27, the company is set to launch the COSMO-SkyMed Second Generation FM2 satellite into orbit at 6:11 p.m. ET.

The satellite is part of a group of satellites that will eventually form the second-generation COSMO-SkyMed Earth observation system.

Rocket launches are now a relatively common occurrence, with private space firms like ULA and SpaceX offering their services to government and commercial customers.

Last Friday, United Launch Alliance (ULA) successfully launched two identical space surveillance satellites into Earth orbit on behalf of the U.S. Space Force.

The launch saw ULA's workhorse Atlas V rocket take off from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. The rocket was using a special configuration that saw it "power-slide" off of the launch pad.

One of the most anticipated rocket launches of 2022 will be the debut launch of NASA's moon-bound SLS rocket—the date for which has been repeatedly pushed back. The space agency said earlier this month that it was targeting February for a "wet dress rehearsal test" and would then set a target launch date afterwards.

SpaceX Dragon capsule
A full-size model of a SpaceX Dragon capsule seen at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida in November, 2020. One such capsule is set to splash down back to Earth on Monday. Gregg Newton/AFP/Getty