SpaceX Crew Dragon Set For Splashdown In Atlantic Ocean

This still image taken from NASA TV shows SpaceX's Crew Dragon spacecraft safely aboard the company's recovery vessel following splashdown

This still image taken from NASA TV shows SpaceX's Crew Dragon spacecraft safely aboard the company's recovery vessel following splashdown

The splashdown is the final test for Crew Dragon, which has so far been successful in the flight test of the capsule that could become the first USA craft to carry astronauts since the space shuttle program was phased out in 2011. After undocking from the space station, the Crew Dragon will fly for about 5 hours before it begins to slow down in order to re-enter Earth's atmosphere. Indeed, almost all orbital missions are bookended by danger, with the fiery liftoff at the beginning and the high-dive fall at the end easily presenting the greatest opportunities for disaster.

The first-of-its-kind mission, in advance of SpaceX's crewed test flight slated for June, brought some 180kg of test equipment to the space station, including a dummy named Ripley, outfitted with sensors around its head, neck and spine to monitor how a flight would feel for a human. "Hypersonic reentry is probably my biggest concern", he said. The commercial companies design the spacecraft themselves, in accordance with requirements set out by NASA.

After the toasty-looking Dragon was taken on board the Go Searcher recovery vessel about an hour after landing Friday morning, it will take another 30 hours for Dragon to return to port.

Astronauts used to land in the ocean via parachutes for the Gemini and Apollo missions.

"I'm kind of shaky and I'm super excited", said Benji Reed, SpaceX's director of crew mission management.

Returning to Earth is described as the toughest part of the mission.

Russian Federation has been critical of SpaceX and Elon Musk before, and it's no secret that some of the biggest names in Russia's space science scene aren't super fond of the company or its boss.




That possibility never became reality - at least not this time - partly because Musk wasn't being hyperbolic about those thousand simulations, which SpaceX and NASA exhaustively conducted via computer models.

Boeing is scheduled to fly its first uncrewed mission to the station by next month at the earliest, though that date is likely to slip, officials have said. If they don't, the crew dies.

Despite the distractions, Friday's landing appeared to be another triumph for SpaceX, and validation of years of work. SpaceX then landed the Falcon 9 first stage on one of the company's two drone ships, Of Course I Still Love You, waiting out in the Atlantic. "It has to be 100 percent foolproof". Then it's time to look at the data.

Once the Dragon reached a safe distance, NASA's Mission Control in Houston radioed its congratulations to SpaceX's team, the station's crew and partners around the world. That confidence was shaken, however, during an August 2018 SpaceX cargo mission, when some unexpected - and thus far undisclosed - problems occurred with the parachutes.

Its descent will be broadcast in its entirety by NASA and SpaceX, thanks in large part to a camera embedded in Dragon. It was a test and familiarization flight for the Crew Dragon.

Aboard the station, NASA astronaut Anne McClain returned the compliment on behalf of the three-person crew. When the Dragon is safely away from the rocket, it will descend under parachutes - one more test of that critical system, too.

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