October 26, 2012
SpaceX Dragon Capsule Nearing Completed Mission
Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online
The Dragon capsule launched October 7 from Cape Canaveral towards the space station and docked with the orbiting outpost just a few days later on October 10.
The SpaceX crew has already headed down to the Pacific Ocean splashdown zone to await the Dragon capsule's arrival.
On Sunday, the Expedition 33 crew will depressurize the vestibule between Dragon and the station so the spacecraft can be released.
It will then be detached from the laboratory and eased out to release position by the robotic arm outside the station.
The crew is expected to release the Dragon capsule in the early morning on Sunday, after which Dragon will begin a series of thruster firings to carry it away from the space station.
Dragon will jettison its trunk and solar arrays, and position itself so that its PICA-X heat shield faces Earth. It will then proceed into the Earth's atmosphere.
Once Dragon reaches about 45,000 feet above seal level, parachutes will be deployed and it will slowly descend toward Earth. Splashdown is expected to take place at around noon on Sunday in the Pacific Ocean.
When the team secures Dragon, they will place it on the deck of a 100-foot boat and deliver it back to NASA within 48 hours of splashdown.
Dragon will travel from Southern California to SpaceX's facility in McGregor, Texas where it will be unloaded, processed and delivered to NASA.