NASA astronauts Suni Williams and Aki Hoshide unberthed the Dragon space freighter from the International Space Station, wrapping up 18 days of its first contracted resupply mission, NASA said on Sunday.
“The ground team at Mission Control Houston remotely commanded the station’s robotic arm to uninstall Dragon from the Earth-facing port of the Harmony node after Expedition 33 Commander Suni Williams removed the bolts and latches of the Common Berthing Mechanism that had secured the cargo craft to the station since Oct 10,” NASA said in a statement.
A set of programmed commands to Canadarm2 will maneuver Dragon out to the 15-meter release point, where Williams and Hoshide will ungrapple Dragon at 9:26 a.m. and back the arm away.
After its release, Dragon will return to Earth and splashdown in the Pacific Ocean for recovery off the coast of southern California at 3:20 p.m. EDT this afternoon.
The Dragon is a reusable spacecraft developed by SpaceX to fly cargo to the ISS after NASA retired its space shuttle fleet last year. Dragon is the only space station cargo craft capable of returning a significant amount of supplies back to Earth, including experiments.
Dragon was launched atop a Falcon 9 rocket on October 7 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, beginning NASA's first contracted cargo delivery flight to the station.