Published May 20 2021

Cargo Dragon

SpaceX  launched its 21st Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) mission for NASA to the International Space Station on Sunday, using a brand new variant of its Dragon capsule spacecraft. This new cargo Dragon has a greater carrying capacity and can dock fully autonomously with the Space Station, both improvements over the last iteration.

This is the first launch for this redesigned cargo Dragon, and also the first mission for SpaceX’s new series of CRS missions under a renewed contract with NASA. It’s carrying 6,400 lbs of both supplies for the Space Station and its crew, as well as experimental supplies and equipment for the research being done on the Station. This version of Dragon can carry 20% more than the last cargo spacecraft from SpaceX,  and it also has twice the number of powered lockers for climate-controlled transportation of experimental material.

The new cargo Dragon is a modified version of the Crew Dragon that delivered astronauts to the ISS during May’s Demo-2 mission and during last month’s Crew-1 flight. Its modifications include the removal of the Super Draco engines that are equipped on the crew version, which provide propulsion to carry the capsule quickly away from the Falcon 9 in case of the need for an early abort to protect the astronauts on board. It can also be reused up to five times, vs. just three for the last cargo version.