NASA is gearing up for an intense few weeks of work aboard the International Space Station, staging three spacewalks, moving a docking port from one module to another to support commercial crew ferry ships and capturing an Orbital ATK Cygnus cargo ship carrying nearly 4 tons of equipment and supplies.
After 24 days at the International Space Station, SpaceX’s Dragon supply ship came back to Earth on Sunday with more than 5,400 pounds of cargo, human and animal research specimens, and other gear tagged for the trip home. Release from the station’s robotic arm occurred at 5:11 a.m. EDT (0911 GMT), and splashdown in the Pacific Ocean was a few minutes before 11 a.m. EDT (1500 GMT).
The Trump administration is proposing $19.1 billion for NASA in its fiscal 2018 budget blueprint, a 0.8 percent decrease from 2017 funding levels, focusing on deep space exploration, both human and robotic, and increased public-private partnerships to lower costs and encourage private sector innovation.
NASA has purchased two seats on Russian Soyuz capsules launching later this year and in early 2018 to expand the crew on the U.S. segment of the International Space Station from three to four, and reserved options to fly astronauts on Soyuz spacecraft in 2019 if commercial rides are not available in time.
Running a day late after aborting a rendezvous to resolve a navigation glitch, SpaceX’s Dragon cargo craft made a smooth final approach to the International Space Station on Thursday, floating in range of the research lab’s robot arm for capture to deliver 2.7 tons of supplies and research experiments.