Saturday, 23 March, 2019

SpaceX Dragon capsule splashes down in Atlantic Ocean

SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft is safely aboard the company’s recovery vessel Go Searcher following splashdown at 8:45 a.m. EST on Friday Crew Dragon is coming back to Earth: What to know
Doris Mccormick | 09 March, 2019, 17:04

SpaceX's Crew Dragon spacecraft settles to a gentle splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean northeast of Cape Canaveral to wrap up a successful test flight, March 8, 2019.

SpaceX has now completed the first demonstration flight for the crewed version of its Dragon spacecraft.

Dragon splashed into the Atlantic Ocean exactly on time, at 08:45 EST (13:45 UTC).

NASA has been unable to fly its own astronauts since the final Space Shuttle retired in 2011, after which the space agency turned to the private sector to develop the next generation of human spaceflight hardware.

Crew Dragon's return to Earth began yesterday, after astronauts finished packing it with about 150 kilograms of return cargo; some of that includes some cold storage samples, NASA said prior to launch.

The demonstration flight, whose lone occupant is a test dummy named Ripley, is a crucial step in Nasa's delayed quest to resume human space flight from the United States this year.

The capsule's splashdown was aided by SpaceX's recovery vessel "Go Searcher", a ship equipped to pluck it from amidst the roiling ocean waves and carry it back to shore.

Demo-1 was an un-crewed mission.

The SpaceX Crew Dragon splashes down in the Atlantic Ocean about 200 miles off Florida’s east coast at 8:45 a.m. EST Friday

"I think it's unlikely", SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk said on March 2, in the hours before the Crew Dragon's launch.

"We want to take a moment to recognize this milestone accomplishment that marks the inaugural mission of the commercial crew program", she said.

Waiting in the wings is Boeing and its CST-100 Starliner capsule, being prepared for an unpiloted test flight this spring and its initial piloted launch this fall.

SpaceX's recovery ship headed out to pull the Dragon onto its "nest" and bring it back to shore for inspection.

Launched on March 2 from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, Dragon docked at ISS the following day before successfully undocking Friday some 250 miles over Sudan.

Creation of Dragon is historic in the sense that it will allow NASA to send astronauts to the ISS from American soil.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine was ecstatic following splashdown. After docking at the ISS, the Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques was the first to enter the capsule, describing it as a "business-class" experience. While improvements still need to be made, the company aims to fly NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley on the next test flight. Now, commercial providers - specifically SpaceX and Boeing - are set to fulfill the role, while offering considerably cheaper seats ($58 million per seat rather than $81 million). After five days docked at the Station, Crew Dragon disembarked and returned to Earth. Vibration, acoustic and other measurements were taken throughout the recently completed flight, not only of the capsule but also the mannequin - named Ripley after the lead character in the "Alien" films - which was strapped into one of the four seats.

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