Crew Dragon Returns to Earth

13 March, 2019, 01:59 | Author: Marie Harrington
  • Crew Dragon is coming back to Earth: What to know

Photo: NASA/Norah MoranCrew Dragon spacecraft on it's way back to Earth after undocking from the International Space Station at 2:32 am EST on 8 March 2019.

"A critical step in validating the performance of SpaceX's systems, Demo-1 brings the nation a significant step closer to the return of human launches to the space station from U.S soil for the first time since 2011, when NASA flew its last space shuttle mission", a statement from NASA said on Friday.

It was a crucial milestone in the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Commercial Crew Program ahead of SpaceX's first crewed test flight slated to launch in July with US astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken.

As part of the validation process, SpaceX and NASA will conduct an in-flight abort test, launching the Crew Dragon on top of a modified Falcon 9 rocket and then terminating the rocket engine as it reaches the point of max q - when pressure on the spacecraft is at its greatest. The capsule splashed down in the Atlantic Ocean at around 5:45 a.m. Friday. Boeing is also in on the project to resume manned space flight from U.S. soil after an eight year hiatus. Boeing is up next to test its Starliner capsule. Its splashdown off the coast of Florida was the final test for SpaceX to prove it can safely deliver humans to space for NASA.

Crew Dragon's near-perfect flight - an on-time launch, a flawless docking, and six days of operating in the punishing environment of space - did not guarantee a ideal reentry.

You can catch the NASA Livestream of the Crew Dragon capsule's return on March 8th starting at 2 AM Eastern Standard Time.

As the capsule came back to Earth, it deployed a couple of parachutes to brake its speed.

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Known as Demo-1, this is first of its kind of mission aimed to demonstrate the ability to safely fly missions with NASA astronauts to the orbital laboratory.

Despite China's surprise launch of their own space station, the Internet remains atwitter about the SpaceX International Space Station docking.

After landing in the ocean, SpaceX boated out to the capsule, and now plans to retrieve the spacecraft, lift it onto its recovery ship, and return to the Kennedy Space Center where the company houses rockets in a 54,000-square-foot hangar.

After dropping behind and below the lab, the Crew Dragon adjusted its orbit and jettisoned its empty trunk section, an unpressurized cargo compartment behind the crew compartment, to set the stage for entry.

Not since the end of the Space Shuttle programme has the USA been able to send its own astronauts into orbit. For example, some tweaks may need to be made to the thruster system, and the parachute system still has to be fully certified for crewed flights.

Space station astronauts have been stuck riding Russian rockets since NASA's shuttles retired eight years ago. Both SpaceX and Boeing have been hampered with delays - but 2019 could be the year they start flying crew.

"Even though it was historic and emotional, we were really heads down making sure we were doing everything step-by-step correctly" when opening Crew Dragon's hatch, Saint-Jacques said, "but I had these moments of, 'oh, a-ha, ' with the light of the inside and the view of the lovely cockpit".

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