SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft made its return to the International Space Station this week, launching as part of NASA’s CRS-8 mission from Kennedy Space Center. The Dragon was lofted by SpaceX’s Falcon 9 Full Thrust rocket, the latest variant of their orbital launch vehicle, which makes use of super-chilled, densified propellant for increased performance. This was the third flight of the Full Thrust rocket, the prior two being the Orbcomm OG2-M2 launch in December 2015 and SES-9 in March 2016.
SpaceX’s Falcon 9 Full Thrust rocket clears the strongback and lightning protection towers at Space Launch Complex 40, on its way to orbit. (Photo credit: Bill Jelen / We Report Space)
This marks Dragon’s first visit to the ISS in 2016, its last previous successful flight being CRS-6 in April 2015. The CRS-7 mission, launched in June 2015, ended some two minutes into flight as the Falcon 9 experienced a rapid unplanned disassembly, resulting in a loss of the entire Dragon payload.
In addition to the experiments, consumables and supplies for the International Space Station, the CRS-8 flight also included the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM), a prototype inflatable space habitat, which will undergo long-term testing attached to the Space Station, ...