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Cargo Dragon Opens Wide as It Approaches the International Space Station

After the space shuttle program was scrapped more than a decade ago, America was left without a vehicle to take its astronauts to the International Space Station, and had to turn to old-friend Russia for help. It was a rough decade, one during which the interest of the American public for space exploration dropped.
SpaceX Cargo Dragon on approach to the ISS 6 photos
View from Inspiration4 Crew DragonView from Inspiration4 Crew DragonView from Inspiration4 Crew DragonView from Inspiration4 Crew DragonView from Inspiration4 Crew Dragon
It took the arrival onto the scene of SpaceX to change things around. During the ten years America was left without a spaceship, Elon Musk’s company worked hard and eventually delivered the Crew Dragon, a spaceship that’s likely to be even more successful than the amazing shuttle.

In a little over a year since it entered the scene, the Crew Dragon took people up to the ISS three times. First, it did so in May 2020, when the first crewed test flight took place, and most recently it did the same in April this year. Another flight, Crew-3, is scheduled for later in October.

In being so successful the Crew Dragon kind of overshadowed the spacecraft that preceded it, the Cargo Dragon. In essence a lifeline with Earth for the astronauts on the space station, the Cargo version of the ship has been around ever since the first one flew to orbit in 2010, and delivered the first payload of supplies to the station in 2012. It has been doing so ever since, having been launched no less than 23 times, failing only once.

The main photo of this piece shows a Cargo Dragon on approach to the ISS back at the end of August. The hat of the ship is out of the way, revealing the docking port with the station’s Harmony module, and its forward international docking adapter.

The ship was part of 23rd commercial resupply Dragon mission, which just landed a couple of days ago after its brief stay up in orbit, and the docking occurred at an altitude of 260 miles (418 km) over Western Australia. On board the ship were various experiments, supplies, and even a small robotic arm. 

Editor's note: Gallery shows images from the Inspiration4 flight.


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