SpaceX’s Dragon capsule is now flying through very thin air indeed.
Dragon set several US spaceflight records during its latest mission, a robotic resupply to the International Space Station (ISS) for NASA that lifted off Monday (June 5) and arrived at the orbiting laboratory on Tuesday morning (June 6).
This is the 38th mission to the International Space Station to date for a SpaceX capsule, beating the 37 such flights by NASA’s space shuttle, SpaceX. Observed on Twitter Wed (June 7).
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And that’s not all.
On Tuesday, “the Dragon 2 fleet’s cumulative time in space surpassed that of the Space Shuttle fleet by a total of 1,324 days in orbit!” SpaceX has been added in Another tweet on Wednesday.
Dragon 2 is the latest iteration of the reusable capsule, which SpaceX has begun flying in 2020. There are crewed and unmanned Dragon 2 variants. Crew Dragon has now flown 10 astronaut missions, most of them six-month trips to the International Space Station for NASA.
The current resupply mission, known as CRS-28, is the eighth for the cargo version of Dragon 2. These robotic cargo runs tend to last three to four weeks each.
In addition, the previous Dragon 1 cargo capsule was launched 22 times between December 2010 and March 2020, and reached the International Space Station on 20 occasions. (The first flight, in December 2010, was an Earth orbit test that did not attempt a rendezvous with the orbiting lab. SpaceX also suffered a launch failure during a robotic ISS resupply mission in June 2015.)
NASA flew five different space shuttles in orbit 135 missions from 1981 until the program’s end in 2011. Two of these vehicles, along with their seven astronaut crew, were lost in tragic accidents: Challenger in January 1986 and Columbia in February 2003.
The space shuttles helped build the International Space Station, which didn’t host its first astronauts until November 2000. The orbiting lab has been constantly occupied by rotating crews ever since.
Unlike the Dragon, there was no uncrewed replacement for the Space Shuttle; The iconic winged car was designed for people to drive.
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