CRS-28 Dragon launches toward International Space Station
SpaceX’s autonomous CRS-28 cargo Dragon spacecraft is on its way to the International Space Station for a delivery of crew supplies and a pair of new solar arrays.
Liftoff atop a Falcon 9 rocket occurred at 11:47 a.m. EDT (15:47 UTC) June 5, 2023, from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Less than 10 minutes later, the uncrewed cargo Dragon spacecraft was in orbit to begin its chase of the ISS.
Docking is expected in about 18 hours. The spacecraft is set to link up with the space-facing port of the Harmony module at around 5:50 a.m. (09:50 UTC) June 6.
Aboard CRS-28 Dragon is some 7,000 pounds (3,200 kilograms) of crew supplies, experiments and hardware bound for the space station’s seven-person Expedition 69 crew. In particular, the unpressurized trunk section has the final pair of ISS Roll-Out Solar Arrays, or iROSAs, which are being used to augment the station’s power supply.
The ISS has eight large legacy solar arrays that were launched between 2000 and 2009. Each is 112 feet long and 39 feet wide (34 meters long and 12 meters wide) and had a lifespan of about 15 years. As such, the oldest are showing signs of efficacy loss and degradation.
Because of that, NASA ordered six iROSA wings from Redwire to be installed over the aging arrays. Each new array is 60 feet long by 20 feet wide (18.2 meters long by 6 meters wide) and covers more than half of the original arrays. But the iROSAs are more efficient, producing more than 20 kilowatts of power.
Even so, with all six iROSA wings installed, the power-generating capacity of the ISS is expected to increase by about 30%, giving the orbiting laboratory more than enough power through the planned end of its life in 2030.
In the summer of 2021, the first two sets of arrays were delivered by the CRS-22 cargo Dragon. The second pair arrived in November 2022 during CRS-26. Each roll-out array required at least one spacewalk to install a modification kit to mount over the top of the legacy array, as well as another outing to install and deploy the array.
The modification kits were sent separately and installed before the arrival of each pair of iROSAs.
As of now, the two spacewalks to install the final planned iROSAs are expected to occur on June 9 and June 15. They will be installed on the 1A and 1B power channels, respectively, on the starboard S4 and S6 truss segments.
According to NASASpaceflight.com, the option for a fourth pair of iROSA wings exists, should NASA decide to order another set in the future.
CRS-28 Dragon is expected to remain docked to the ISS for about a month as the Expedition 69 crew unloads its pressurized cargo. It will be reloaded with equipment and experiments to be returned to Earth.
The capsule, which is on its fourth flight, will splashdown in the ocean off the coast of Florida for recovery and eventual reuse.
This was the fourth Dragon mission of 2023 (two crew and two cargo), and the 38th Falcon family rocket to fly this year.
For this launch Falcon 9 first stage booster B1077 was used for a fifth time. It successfully landed on SpaceX’s drone ship “A Shortfall of Gravitas” downrange in the Atlantic Ocean less than 10 minutes after leaving Florida.
Video courtesy of NASA
Derek Richardson has a degree in mass media, with an emphasis in contemporary journalism, from Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas. While at Washburn, he was the managing editor of the student run newspaper, the Washburn Review. He also has a website about human spaceflight called Orbital Velocity. You can find him on twitter @TheSpaceWriter.