The SpaceX Dragon cargo craft is packed with science and hardware ready for return to Earth on Friday. NASA is also introducing a team of astronauts who will soon fly Boeing and SpaceX vehicles to the International Space Station.
The Expedition 56 crew has finished loading Dragon with sensitive research results and station gear for analysis and refurbishment back on Earth. Space station officials from around the world gave the “go” on Thursday for Dragon’s release from the orbital complex.
Mission controllers, with astronaut Serena Auñón-Chancellor monitoring, will command the Canadarm2 robotic arm to release Dragon at 12:37 p.m. EDT Friday. Splashdown in the Pacific Ocean will occur less than six hours later under a trio of huge parachutes off the coast of Baja California.
NASA will introduce Friday at 11 a.m. on NASA TV new astronauts assigned to spaceflights launching from the United States for the first time since July 8, 2011. NASA’s Commercial Crew Program is partnering with Boeing and SpaceX to launch humans on U.S.-built spaceships from Kennedy Space Center on test flights to the space station.