Early Friday morning (Aug. 26), SpaceX's robotic Dragon cargo spaceship will separate from the International Space Station, ferrying essential science specimens on a nearly 6-hour journey back to Earth.
You can watch the spacecraft leave the station live online on Space.com, courtesy of NASA TV. NASA's coverage begins at 5:45 a.m. EDT (0945 GMT), and astronauts are scheduled to release the spacecraft from the station's robotic arm at 6:10 a.m. EDT (1010 GMT).
Afterward, in a deorbit burn and landing process that will not be aired on NASA TV, the uncrewed Dragon will move a safe distance away from the station, then fire its engines to head back to Earth at 10:56 a.m. EDT (1456 GMT), finally splashing down in the Pacific Ocean west of Baja California at 11:47 a.m. EDT (1547 GMT).
The craft arrived at the space station last month, bringing nearly 5,000 lbs. (2,270 kilograms) of tools and supplies to the space station astronauts. It also bore in its trunk the first International Docking Adapter, which NASA astronauts Jeff Williams and Kate Rubins installed on the station last week. The adapter will allow future spacecraft, including a crewed version of the Dragon, to autonomously dock with the station instead of needing to be grappled by the robotic arm.
"Dragon delivered numerous science experiments July 20 that the Expedition 48 crew immediately unloaded and began working on," NASA officials said in a blog post. "Two of those experiments set to return on Friday include the Heart Cells study and Mouse Epigenetics. That research explored how microgravity affects human heart cells and alters gene expression and DNA in mice."
On Sept. 6, Williams and Russian cosmonauts Oleg Skripochka and Alexey Ovchinin will leave the space station in a Russian Soyuz spacecraft and head back to Earth after a five-and-a-half-month stay.