Tropical Storm Elsa delays SpaceX Dragon cargo ship's return to Earth

Update for July7: Tropical Storm Elsa continues to delay SpaceX's plan to undock a Dragon cargo ship from the International Space Station and return it to Earth this week. NASA now says the capsule, originally targeted for a July 6 splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean off Florida's coast, will now depart the station no earlier than July 8 at 10:35 a.m. EDT (1435 GMT), weather permitting.

NASA and SpaceX have delayed the departure of the SpaceX CRS-22 Dragon cargo ship from the International Space Station (ISS) as Tropical Storm Elsa approaches Florida. 

The cargo spacecraft, which was originally expected to leave the space station Tuesday (July 6), will remain docked to the station's Harmony module until at least Wednesday (July 7), NASA said in a statement

The decision came as Tropical Storm Elsa neared Florida, bringing heavy winds, downpours and tidal surges, which would make splashdown and recovery of the capsule unsafe. 

Video: Tropical Storm Elsa seen from space, SpaceX Dragon return delayed
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SpaceX's Dragon CRS-22 cargo ship pictured approaching the International Space Station, on June 5, 2021. (Image credit: NASA)

NASA said the ground teams continue monitoring the situation to ensure wave height and wind speeds are within safe limits during the retrieval operation. NASA TV coverage of the undocking is expected to start at 10:45 am EDT on Wednesday, the space agency said. 

Dragon CSR-22 arrived at the orbital outpost June 5 with 7,300 lbs. (3,311 kilograms) of water and food supplies and science experiments on board.

Among its cargo were two new ISS Roll-Out Solar Arrays (iROSA) that European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Pesquet and NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough installed during a series of spacewalks later that month. 

On its return, the spacecraft will deliver back to Earth about 5,000 lbs (2,300 kg) of material from the space station, including experiments testing the activity of oral bacteria in space and the effectiveness of drugs designed to improve muscle function, according to the NASA statement.

Dragon's splashdown, which will be controlled by SpaceX teams from Hawthorne, California, is now expected to take place Friday (July 9). The spacecraft will then be transported to NASA's Space Station Processing Facility at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Tropical Storm Elsa is expected to affect weather in Florida throughout Wednesday but should move to the north by Thursday morning.

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Tereza Pultarova
Senior Writer

Tereza is a London-based science and technology journalist, aspiring fiction writer and amateur gymnast. Originally from Prague, the Czech Republic, she spent the first seven years of her career working as a reporter, script-writer and presenter for various TV programmes of the Czech Public Service Television. She later took a career break to pursue further education and added a Master's in Science from the International Space University, France, to her Bachelor's in Journalism and Master's in Cultural Anthropology from Prague's Charles University. She worked as a reporter at the Engineering and Technology magazine, freelanced for a range of publications including Live Science,, Professional Engineering, Via Satellite and Space News and served as a maternity cover science editor at the European Space Agency.