SpaceX’s crewed flights have garnered the most attention lately, but the uncrewed variety is about to retake the spotlight. The company is launching its updated cargo Dragon capsule for the first time at 11:17AM Eastern from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The CRS-21 mission to the International Space Station comes nine months after the original Dragon launched for the last time, and represents a major milestone precisely for how little work will be involved — this should be SpaceX’s most reliable hauler yet.
The new cargo Dragon is a modification of Crew Dragon that can dock with the ISS entirely autonomously rather than requiring help from astronauts helming the Canadarm. It also boasts 20 percent more cargo volume than the earlier cargo model, including double the powered locker capability. It should last longer than earlier capsules, too. It can stay attached to the ISS for over twice as long, and it’s now designed for up to five return trips.