SpaceX CRS-21 has completed its mission to the International Space Station after launching from Kennedy Space Center in early December. Its next mission is to return cargo from the station back to NASA sometime this week.
SpaceX usually recovers their capsules in the Pacific Ocean closer to their headquarters and manufacturing center in Hawthorne, California, but with their new Dragon 2 capsule, they are switching coasts and recovering the capsule in the Atlantic. Using the same ships and processes as when they recover crewed capsules, this speeds up the time it takes for experiments and other cargo items to get into the hands of NASA officials.
Before, SpaceX would have to transport the cargo from California to NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, for NASA researchers to be able to take over control of their experiments. Now SpaceX and NASA will use Kennedy Space Center as the handoff location, the first time since the Shuttle era ended.
Today the undocking of the capsule was called off due to weather concerns in the primary splashdown location off the coast of Daytona. The next attempt for splashdown will be on January 14th.