SpaceX Dragon Cargo Ship Due to Splashdown Friday After Leaving the ISS

A SpaceX Cargo Dragon 2 spacecraft has undocked from the International Space Station (ISS) and is now on its way back to Earth, with splashdown scheduled for Friday.

The departure of the spacecraft, originally scheduled for Tuesday, was delayed due to the presence of Tropical Storm Elsa in the Gulf of Mexico—the splashdown location. The storm is currently moving northward along the northeastern U.S. coastline.

The Cargo Dragon 2 launched to the ISS on June 3, from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, aboard a a Falcon 9 rocket as part of a NASA-contracted commercial resupply mission, known as SpaceX CRS-22. For the mission, the spacecraft carried a 7,300-pound payload to the space station.

This payload included scientific research experiments, crew supplies and vehicle hardware—including six new roll-out solar panel arrays, two of which were installed on the space station by ISS astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Thomas Pesquet over the course of three spacewalks in June.

The Cargo Dragon 2 is a reusable spacecraft developed by SpaceX capable of carrying various supplies that can dock autonomously with the ISS.

Now after more than a month in space, the Cargo Dragon 2 is headed back to Earth. The CRS-22 spacecraft successfully undocked from the Harmony module on the ISS at 10:45 a.m. ET on Thursday, according to NASA.

Later on Friday, the Dragon 2 will conduct a de-orbit burn to begin its re-entry sequence into Earth's atmosphere. The spacecraft is then expected to splashdown at approximately 11:30 p.m. ET in the Gulf of Mexico, near Tallahassee, Florida.

High winds and dangerous weather conditions off the coast of Florida caused by Elsa led to the spacecraft's departure being delayed on Tuesday and Wednesday.

"Certain parameters like wind speeds and wave heights must be within certain limits to ensure the safety of the recovery teams, the science, and the spacecraft," NASA said in a blog post on Wednesday.

This is over 2000 kg of #science samples and equipment. #CargoDragon is packed and ready to leave for 🌎. Scientist's can't wait! #MissionAlpha

— Thomas Pesquet (@Thom_astro) July 8, 2021

The Dragon 2 will be returning several science investigations to Earth, including the Molecular Muscle Experiment-2. This investigation is testing a series of drugs to determine whether they can improve the health of humans in space.

Another experiment in the spacecraft's payload is Oral Biofilms in Space, which examines how gravity affects oral bacteria. The results of this experiment could aid the development of new treatments against oral diseases, such as cavities, gingivitis, and periodontitis.

The splashdown location off the coast of Florida enables NASA teams on the ground to quickly transport materials from these scientific investigations to Kennedy Space Center's Space Station Processing Facility.

This means they will be in the hands of the relevant researchers as soon as four-to-nine hours after splashdown, minimizing the loss of any effects that occurred in the microgravity of the space station's orbit.

SpaceX Cargo Dragon 2 spacecraft
The SpaceX Cargo Dragon 2 spacecraft approaches the International Space Station June 5, 2021, carrying over 7,300 pounds of new science, supplies and solar arrays. NASA Johnson