Two days after lifting off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, a SpaceX cargo capsule has reached the International Space Station (ISS) to drop off supplies along with a slew of science experiments.
The crewless Dragon capsule docked with the ISS on Monday with a consignment that tipped the scales at 5,500 pounds. The trip is the 17th SpaceX supply mission to the crewed satellite.
The experiments arriving at the space station include equipment for research that aims to show how microalgae can be used with existing life support systems on the ISS to improve the recycling of resources. “The cultivation of microalgae for food, and as part of a life support system to generate oxygen and consume carbon dioxide, could be helpful in future long-duration exploration missions, as it could reduce the amount of consumables required from Earth,” NASA said in an online post detailing the project.
The SpaceX capsule also dropped off Hermes, a machine that will help scientists study the dusty “regolith” debris that covers asteroids and moons. It’s hoped the research will provide insight into the formation and behavior of asteroids, comets, impact dynamics, and planetary evolution.
NASA described the latest experiments to arrive at the space station as “just a few of the hundreds of investigations that will help us learn how to keep astronauts healthy during long-duration space travel, and demonstrate technologies for future human and robotic exploration beyond low-Earth orbit to the moon and Mars.”
It added that research on the space station also offers a chance for U.S. government agencies, private industry, and academic and research institutions to carry out microgravity experiments that could result in new technologies, medical treatments, and products that improve life on Earth.
Saturday’s rocket launch was delayed by several days due to an issue at the space station and also a problem with SpaceX’s autonomous drone ship on which its returning rockets land.
The mission comes at the same time as SpaceX confirmed the loss of its Crew Dragon capsule in a ground-based test in Florida in April. No fatalities occurred and nobody was injured. The private space company said last week that an anomaly with one of the engines destroyed the Crew Dragon capsule in an explosion. The cause of the mishap is still being investigated, though the company is determined to press ahead with developing the capsule that’s expected to one day ferry astronauts between Earth and the ISS.