Dragon spacecraft heads back to Earth with science after tropical storm delay

SpaceX vehicle will splashdown off Florida’s coast

A SpaceX spacecraft carrying research conducted on the International Space Station is bound for Earth after a departure delay due to Tropical Storm Elsa.

The spacecraft was set to undock Tuesday but NASA officials announced the event had been pushed to Thursday at 10:35 a.m. due to the extreme weather off Florida’s coast from Elsa. Because the spacecraft is collected by recovery teams after it splashes down at sea, there are certain safety parameters like wind speeds and wave heights that must be within certain limits to ensure the safety of the recovery teams, the spacecraft and its contents.

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After the delay, Dragon successfully undocked from the ISS on Thursday morning, with NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough keeping an eye on the spacecraft as it departed from the Harmony module’s space-facing port.

“Thanks to everybody again, and it looks like a beautiful vehicle departing,” Kimbrough said as the spacecraft pushed away from the ISS.

The Cargo Dragon spacecraft first arrived at the ISS on June 4 carrying 7,300 pounds of hardware, experiments and supplies. The spacecraft will complete its mission this week returning to Earth with some experiments conducted onboard the orbiting laboratory. On its way back, Dragon will return to Earth with about 3,000 pounds of cargo.

Dragon used its thrusters to move away from the space station before re-entry to Earth.

The spacecraft will splash down in the Gulf of Mexico at 11:30 p.m. Friday off the coast of Tallahassee. This will mark the second splashdown of a commercial spacecraft off the Florida coast; previously the spacecraft landed in the Pacific Ocean.

The capsule will be brought back to Kennedy Space Center’s Space Station Processing Facility where the experiments will be handed off to researchers.