NASA confirmed that at 1:40 p.m. ET yesterday, the latest version of the Dragon Cargo spacecraft was successful in completing its first autonomous docking with the ISS. The successful docking marks the first time a SpaceX cargo resupply mission has used autonomous docking. NASA also pointed out this is the first time that two Dragon spacecraft have been attached to the ISS at the same time.
The updated Dragon Cargo capsule launched on December sixth around 11:17 AM from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The spacecraft was scheduled to arrive on Monday and is expected to stay at the station for about a month. The mission is the 21st contract resupply mission for SpaceX.
The capsule was packed with cargo with 6553 pounds of cargo aboard in total. The breakdown included 803 pounds of crew supplies, 2100 pounds of science investigations, 265 pounds of spacewalk equipment, 698 pounds of vehicle hardware, 102 pounds of computer resources, and 53 pounds of hardware specifically for the Russian crewmembers. One of the most notable items aboard the spacecraft was carried in an unpressurized part of the capsule and is the Nanoracks Bishop airlock weighing in at 2403 pounds.
The new airlock has a significantly larger door than the other airlock available on the space station. The larger door will allow astronauts aboard the space station to conduct new science operations and make it easier to launch small satellites, such as CubeSats from the station. Yesterday, we outlined some experiment items that went to the station aboard the capsule.
Three of those experiments are investigations into human tissue changes, including changes in the heart and brain, while in microgravity. That type of experiment is critical for preparing NASA and astronauts for longer duration missions to Mars and beyond in the future.