On Sunday, December 6, SpaceX launched its twenty-first Commercial Resupply Services mission (CRS-21). It lifted off from Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A) at Kennedy Space Center, Florida at 11:17 a.m. EST, or 16:17 UTC. The Dragon portion separated from Falcon 9’s second stage about eleven minutes after liftoff and autonomously docked to the space station on Monday, December 7.
SpaceX says this is the first flight of the updated cargo version of Dragon, which is able to carry about 20 percent more volume than the previous version of Dragon and has double the amount of powered locker cargo capability the company says. Dragon is now designed for up to five flights to and from the space station, and this cargo version of the spacecraft can stay on station more than twice as long as the previous version of Dragon.
The Falcon 9 first stage rocket booster that supported this launch previously supported launch of Dragon’s first flight with NASA astronauts to the International Space Station (Demo-2), the ANASIS-II mission, and a Starlink mission. Following stage separation, SpaceX landed Falcon 9’s first stage on the “Of Course I Still Love You” droneship, which was stationed in the Atlantic Ocean. This flight marks Falcon 9’s 100th successful launch.