COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Water was discovered in the Space Exploration Technologies Corp. Dragon spacecraft that recently returned to Earth from a month-long stay at the international space station, but so far as NASA knew May 21, none of the agency’s cargo was damaged.
The presence of water in the spacecraft, which splashed down May 18 after a month-long mission to the station “did not cause us any impacts that we know of,” Dan Hartman, deputy program manager for the International Space Station, said in a webcast briefing from the Johnson Space Center in Houston May 21.
Some early return cargo had already been rushed back to Houston by May 21, and the rest of Dragon’s cache was due to arrive May 23, Hartman said during the briefing.
SpaceX spokeswoman Emily Shanklin did not reply to emails requesting comment May 21 and May 22. Hartman said SpaceX will investigate the cause of the water incursion at its rocket test facility in McGregor, Texas, where all Dragon spacecraft are taken for postmission processing.
Dragon returned from the space station May 18, splashing down about 480 kilometers off the coast of Baja California, Mexico, according to a NASA press release issued that day. The spacecraft arrived May 20 at the Port of Long Beach in California, Hartman said.
News that water had been discovered in Dragon was first reported by Aviation Week and Space Technology.
The cargo-delivery mission just completed was the third of 12 that SpaceX owes NASA under the $1.6 billion Commercial Resupply Services contract the Hawthorne, California-based company signed in 2008 to haul 20 metric tons of cargo to station through 2015. NASA plans to extend that contract to cover deliveries through 2018, and to issue a follow-on Commercial Resupply Services contract for deliveries through at least 2020. SpaceX and Orbital Sciences Corp., NASA’s other contract cargo hauler, are well positioned to get the follow-on contracts.
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Dan Leone is an editor and reporter for the ExchangeMonitor Publications covering the Department of Energy and Department of Defense nuclear weapons programs. From 2011 to 2016, Dan was the NASA reporter for the space industry publication SpaceNews, where he covered U.S. space agency policy, news and missions. He also produced the SpaceGeeks podcast showcasing interviews with space industry professionals. Dan earned a bachelor's degree in public communications from American University. You can find his latest project on Twitter at @leone_exm.