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Dragon capsule bids adios to ISS

Departs orbiting outpost today bearing return cargo

Canadarm2 grapples the Dragon as it arrives at the ISS. Pic: NASA

Crew aboard the International Space Station (ISS) are preparing to wave off the SpaceX Dragon resupply capsule, which will return to Earth later today bearing over 1,600kg of cargo.

The unmanned space truck launched to the orbiting outpost on April 8 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, atop a Falcon 9 rocket. It carried vital supplies and the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM) - an inflatable space podule set for a two-year orbital trial.

SpaceX's eighth ISS commercial resupply mission marked the first successful return and landing of the Falcon 9 first stage on a floating barge, a feat the company recently repeated.

Back aloft, meanwhile, the Dragon has been packed with "samples from human research, biology and biotechnology studies, physical science investigations and education activities" for the return leg of its mission.

It'll be detached from the ISS using the Canadarm2 robotic limb, before Brit astronaut Tim Peake finally releases it at 13:18 GMT (9:18 AM EDT).

NASA explains: "Dragon will fire its thrusters three times to move to a safe distance from the station before being commanded to begin its deorbit burn about 2 PM (18:00 GMT). The capsule will splash down in the Pacific Ocean about 2:55 PM (18:55 GMT)."

NASA TV will have live coverage of the departure kicking off at 9 AM EDT (13:00 GMT). ®

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