Saturday, 23 March, 2019

SpaceX Crew Dragon Set For Splashdown In Atlantic Ocean

ISS crew member and plush toy Earth continues work aboard the station Earth hitting the treadmill with NASA astronaut Anne Mc Clain | Image credit NASA Anne McClain
Doris Mccormick | 08 March, 2019, 16:22

The past week's flight marked the first-ever Crew Dragon space trip, known as Demonstration Mission 1 or DM-1. Crew Dragon is now whirling through orbit and is scheduled to splash down in the Atlantic Ocean around 8:45 am ET after spending six days in space for the uncrewed demonstration mission.

History made: Crew Dragon was the first spacecraft to dock at the space station's new global docking adapter, installed in the Harmony module by astronauts in August 2016.

Dragon splashed into the Atlantic Ocean exactly on time, at 08:45 EST (13:45 UTC). Thanks to a camera under Crew Dragon's open nosecone, thruster pulses were visible in the darkness-a rare sight to see for a spacecraft returning to Earth.

Significant delays hampered the launch of the Crew Dragon but on March 2 it finally achieved lift-off from storied Launch Pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center. It remained docked with the station until Thursday, at which point the hatch was closed and locked and the capsule was readied for its return. SpaceX engineers dubbed the dummy Ripley, a nod to a character in the 1979 film Alien.

During its five-day stay, US astronaut Anne McClain and Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques ran tests and inspected Crew Dragon's cabin.

ISS Crew Member Earth Continues Work Aboard the Station 1
Earth making sure she is on schedule | Image credit NASA Anne McClain

Elon Musk, the CEO of United States private aerospace manufacturer SpaceX, called Russia's rocket engineering "excellent" and said the country's rocket engines are the best now flying, also suggesting that the reusable version of Russia's Angara rocket would be "great". It is equipped with a heat shield to protect it from the high temperature re-entry into Earth's atmosphere and four parachutes to reduce its speed for splashdown about 280 miles (450km) from Cape Canaveral in Florida.

In 2014, NASA awarded contracts to SpaceX and Boeing to develop spacecraft to launch US astronauts.

With the landing, Crew Dragon's six-day long mission is complete but there's still work to do. It quickly moved away from the station as in preparation for its return to Earth. The first flight without crew is slated for no earlier than April and a crewed launch in late summer. They still hoped that a crewed test flight could take place before the end of the year but did not commit to a specific schedule.

There are now three astronauts on board the space station: Anne C. McClain from Spokane, Washington; station commander Oleg Kononenko from Russian; and David Saint-Jacques from Canada.

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