A SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft has delivered the second commercial crew docking port and 5,000lb of science investigations and supplies for the International Space Station.

Launched on a Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, US, the spacecraft arrived at the orbiting laboratory.

The Dragon cargo spacecraft will join three other spacecraft currently at the International Space Station.

One of the key features in Dragon’s unpressurised cargo section is the International Docking Adapter-3 (IDA-3).

According to Nasa, flight controllers at mission control in Houston will use the robotic arm to extract IDA-3 from Dragon and position it over Pressurized Mating Adapter-3, on the space-facing side of the Harmony module.

Prior to the final installation by the astronauts, the docking port will be moved into position remotely by robotics flight control teams from Nasa and the Canadian Space Agency.

Both installed in 2016, the IDA-3 and IDA-2 provide an automated docking system for future spacecraft, including upcoming commercial spacecraft to transport astronauts through contracts with Nasa.

The recent delivery is the 18th cargo flight of SpaceX to the space station and was delivered as part of a commercial resupply services contract with Nasa. It supports new and existing investigations.

At the space station, Nasa is conducting research in fields such as biology, physics, and materials science.

Nasa said in a statement: “Nasa’s research and development work aboard the space station contributes to the agency’s deep space exploration plans, including returning astronauts to the Moon’s surface in five years and preparing to send humans to Mars.”

SpaceX designed and manufactured the Falcon Heavy, a partially reusable heavy-lift launch vehicle. It is derived from the Falcon 9 vehicle and features a strengthened Falcon 9 first stage as the centre core with two additional first stages as strap-on boosters.