SpaceX’s unmanned Dragon capsule is set to leave the International Space Station on Sunday and return to Earth to complete the first-ever commercial cargo mission to the station.
The unmanned capsule will undock from the orbiting lab at 7:55 am EDT on Sunday and be released by its massive robotic arm about 90 minutes later, reports Space.com.
After this, Dragon will splash down in the Pacific Ocean around 3:20 pm EDT that same day, where personnel from SpaceX will be waiting to retrieve it with a crane-equipped boat.
NASA will be streaming a live broadcast of the Dragon capsule as it leaves the International Space Station. It will be returning almost 2,000 pounds of cargo and science experiments to Earth. SpaceX officials wrote in a mission update on Friday:
“In California, SpaceX crew have already headed to the Pacific Ocean splashdown zone to await Dragon’s arrival, while at the station, Expedition 33 crew members are readying Dragon’s return cargo, including biological samples that have been stored in the station’s freezers since the retirement of the space shuttle.”
Mashable notes that the Dragon capsule launched on October 7 on top of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket. In doing so, it kicked off the first of 12 scheduled robotic supply flights to the International Space Station. Under the contract between the private company and NASA, SpaceX will earn $1.6 billion for the supply missions.
NASA has been looking to American companies like SpaceX to fill the void left when the space shuttle fleet retired in 2011. Along with the Dragon capsule contract, NASA has also signed a contract with Orbital Sciences Corporation, who will make eight unmanned supply flights with its Antares rocket and Cygnus spacecraft in a $1.9 billion deal.
The Antares orbital test flights will begin later this year. The SpaceX Dragon capsule will leave on its second supply mission in early January.
To watch the SpaceX Dragon capsule leave the International Space Station, view the live broadcast below starting at 7:55 am EDT on Sunday.