SpaceX’s Cargo Dragon has returned on Earth from its 16th mission to orbit
The spacecraft successfully carried a few thousand pounds of cargo to the ISS on June 29 and brought back a similar amount of invaluable cargo, as well as scientific experiments from orbit. Cargo Dragon is, at least for the moment, the only operational spacecraft worldwide able to bring back cargo.
The vehicle was captured following a soft landing in the Pacific Ocean and brought back to Port of San Pedro aboard SpaceX vessel NRC Quest last week.
SpaceX’s Dragon capsule is back at Port of LA, full of science, after a month spent at the International Space Station. #spacex #nasa pic.twitter.com/jWhZQTubgK
— Pauline Acalin (@w00ki33) August 5, 2018
This is the only commercial orbital spacecraft in the entire history that has been reused. While most of it can be reused, the rear segment also known as a trunk will always be expended, qhile the parachutes and heat shield have to be replaced after each trip.
Even so, the cost and effort that is necessary for producing and operationalizing the spacecraft is contained within the capsule itself and includes the sensitive electronics, docking equipment, aluminum, titanium and carbon composite structures, as well as other components.
According to Elon Musk and Gwynne Shotwell, Cargo Dragon was certified right from the start with a spacecraft lifespan of 3 orbital missions.
The next launch of Cargo Dragon will probably take place at the end of November 2018 and will mark its first launch atop Falcon 9 Block 5, most likely with both a flight-proven booster and capsule.