Recycled SpaceX Dragon Capsule Makes 2nd Delivery to Space Station

A used SpaceX Dragon cargo ship arrived at the International Space Station for the second time Sunday (Dec. 17), delivering more than 2 tons of NASA supplies just in time for Christmas.

The uncrewed Dragon capsule was captured by astronauts using the space station's robotic arm at 5:57 a.m. EST (1057 GMT) as both spacecraft sailed 252 miles (405 kilometers) above the Pacific Ocean, between Australia and Papua New Guinea. [See photos for the Dragon cargo ship launch]

A recycled SpaceX Dragon cargo ship approaches the International Space Station on Dec. 17, 2017 to be captured by astronauts via a robotic arm. It is the second delivery flight to the station for the Dragon capsule. (Image credit: NASA TV)

"It's a great day to see Dragon back on ISS again," spacecraft communicator Leslie Ringo radioed the International Space Station (ISS) crew from NASA's Mission Control Center in Houston. SpaceX launched the Dragon capsule Friday (Dec. 15). 

"It's a beautiful spacecraft and we're looking forward to digging into it and getting some science on board," astronaut Joe Acaba of NASA replied from the station. Acaba assisted crewmate Mark Vande Hei, who controlled the station's arm during the Dragon capture.

Sunday's arrival marked the second cargo delivery mission for this SpaceX Dragon capsule. It last visited the station in April 2015. SpaceX also reused the first stage of the Falcon 9 rocket that launched the Dragon, with the booster landing on a pad to mark the company's 20th successful landing. SpaceX has developed its reusable rocket technology to lower the cost of spaceflight.

For this mission, SpaceX's 13th station resupply flight for NASA, the Dragon delivered nearly 4,800 lbs. (2,177 kilograms) of supplies and scientific gear for astronauts on the space station. Dragon will stay at the space station until mid-January, when it will return to Earth and splash down in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Baja California, allowing SpaceX and NASA to recover experiment results and other gear. 

Today's Dragon arrival capped a busy day for the International Space Station. Just hours earlier, at 2:21 a.m. EST (0721 GMT), a Russian Soyuz rocket launched three new crewmembers toward the orbiting lab from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

Russian cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov, Norishige "Neemo" Kanai of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and astronaut Scott "Maker" Tingle of NASA launched aboard a Soyuz space capsule and will join the station's Expedition 54 crew later this week. The trio is scheduled to dock at the space station early Tuesday (Dec. 19) at 3:43 a.m. EST (0843 GMT).

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Tariq Malik

Tariq is the Editor-in-Chief of and joined the team in 2001, first as an intern and staff writer, and later as an editor. He covers human spaceflight, exploration and space science, as well as skywatching and entertainment. He became's Managing Editor in 2009 and Editor-in-Chief in 2019. Before joining, Tariq was a staff reporter for The Los Angeles Times covering education and city beats in La Habra, Fullerton and Huntington Beach. In October 2022, Tariq received the Harry Kolcum Award for excellence in space reporting from the National Space Club Florida Committee. He is also an Eagle Scout (yes, he has the Space Exploration merit badge) and went to Space Camp four times as a kid and a fifth time as an adult. He has journalism degrees from the University of Southern California and New York University. You can find Tariq at and as the co-host to the This Week In Space podcast with space historian Rod Pyle on the TWiT network. To see his latest project, you can follow Tariq on Twitter @tariqjmalik.