The International Space Station (ISS) received a fresh batch of supplies on Sunday with the arrival of SpaceX’s Dragon cargo ship, marking the company’s 26th resupply mission to the orbiting station.
The Dragon spacecraft successfully docked to the space-facing port of the Harmony module at 7:39 a.m. ET following a 17-hour long journey, according to NASA. The space agency’s 26th commercial resupply mission carried around 7,700 pounds (3,500 kilograms) of supplies and experiments to the ISS, including new solar arrays for the space station, a Moon Microscope that could be used to perform medical diagnoses on space missions, and a plant growth experiment dubbed Veggie.
The brand new capsule, named C211, is the third Dragon 2 cargo spacecraft built by SpaceX. The vehicle launched at 2:20 p.m. ET on November 26 from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida atop the private company’s Falcon 9 rocket. The latest resupply mission, designated CRS-26, is part of SpaceX’s ongoing partnership with NASA to launch payloads to the orbiting space station.
The cargo capsule was packed with two ISS Roll-Out Solar Arrays, or iROSAs, which will be installed outside the space station to increase its power generation capability by about 30%. The iROSAs roll out using stored kinetic energy, a technology that was used on NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test mission, and the space agency is planning to use something similar for its upcoming lunar Gateway, a future space station that will orbit the Moon.
The capsule also carried the Moon Microscope, an experimental kit that could eventually be used to diagnose medical conditions for astronauts on board the space station. The kit includes a portable hand-held microscope and a small self-contained blood sample staining device, which the astronauts could use to obtain images and send them to Earth for review. The Moon Microscope “could provide diagnostic capabilities for crew members in space or on the surface of the Moon or Mars, as well as the ability to test water, food, and surfaces for contamination,” NASA said, adding that the kit “may enable improved medical monitoring on upcoming Artemis missions.”
Veggie, a plant-growing experiment, was also included in the shipment. It’s an attempt to grow tomatoes on board the ISS for astronauts to munch on while living on the station. A previous Veggie experiment successfully produced leafy greens on the space station, with dwarf cherry tomatoes being its next frontier.
Dragon also carried four shoe-box sized satellites to study satellite communication methods, space weather, and to test new technology for robotic assembly of large telescopes, according to NASA.
The cargo capsule will spend about one month attached to the space station before making its way back to Earth in mid-January, carrying cargo and research data for analysis. Dragon will splashdown off the coast of Florida with the help of a parachute.