Dragon set to shuttle supplies back from ISS

The SpaceX Dragon spacecraft is the only vessel capable of both supplying the International Space Station with cargo and bringing the materials back to Earth.
By | Published: January 9, 2018 | Last updated on May 18, 2023

The SpaceX Dragon spacecraft attached to the International Space Station’s Harmony module when it arrived on December 17.


The SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft will return from the International Space Station (ISS) on January 13 after dropping off over 4,800 pounds (2,177 kilograms) of scientific material and supplies. Flight controllers have scheduled the spacecraft to depart from the ISS at 5 a.m. Eastern time, after they have used ISS’s robotic Canadarm2 to detach Dragon from the Harmony module of the orbiting lab. Joe Acaba and Scott Tingle — flight engineers aboard the ISS for NASA’s Expedition 54 — will oversee the spacecraft’s departure, while ground controllers will call for its official release.

Once Dragon has been released from ISS and it’s thrusters have transported it a safe distance away from the station, SpaceX’s flight controllers in Hawthorne, California, will execute a deorbit burn command, blasting Dragon back into Earth’s atmosphere. It’s scheduled to land in the Pacific Ocean on January 13, at 10:36 a.m. EST.

Considering Dragon will be carrying precious cargo, the recovery crew certainly won’t be wasting any time seizing the 4,100 pounds (1,860 kilograms) of cargo from the ocean. The craft’s load contains scientific samples from experiments, as well as research conducted aboard the ISS — including biology and biotechnology studies, human and animal research, physical science investigations, and education activities.

Since some of the samples are time sensitive, NASA and the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (the nonprofit organization in charge of research conducted in the station’s U.S. national laboratory), will begin sorting and distributing the material within 48 hours of Dragon’s landing.

Dragon launched on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 40 at Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on December 15, arriving at the station on December 17. The craft supplied materials for dozens of ISS investigations, including the production of fiber optic filaments in microgravity, measuring the solar energy that the Sun supplies to the Earth, and quantifying the orbital debris that surrounds the station.

SpaceX has made 13 cargo flights to the ISS through NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services contract, helping bridge the gap between private and federally funded space agencies.

You can catch live coverage of Dragon’s release from the ISS on January 13, starting at 4:30 a.m. EST.