Monday, 25 March, 2019


SpaceX capsule back on Earth, paves way for new manned U.S. flights

Elon Musk's SpaceX capsule splashes down off Florida coastMore Elon Musk's SpaceX capsule splashes down off Florida coastMore
Kristine Garrett | 09 March, 2019, 17:04

- The first human-rated commercial spacecraft to dock at the International Space Station departed early Friday morning from the orbiting laboratory. After a five-day mission on the orbital outpost, Crew Dragon was set to autonomously detach about 2:30 a.m EST (0730 GMT) on Friday and descend to Earth for an 8:45 a.m. splash-down off Florida's Cape Canaveral coast.

The Dragon undocked from the International Space Station early Friday. Apollo 9 splashed down near the Bahamas on March 13, 1969.

The Demo-1 mission now complete, SpaceX and NASA will carefully analyse the capsule to assess its performance, particularly to see how it may have been affected by the launch and re-entry.

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 U.S. this year.

SpaceX's recovery ship, Go Searcher, is equipped with a crane to lift Crew Dragon out of the water and onto the main deck of the ship within an hour after splashdown. However, Crew Dragon is carrying one lifeless - but lifelike - passenger, a dummy outfitted with a variety of sensors so scientists can measure the forces exerted on the body during the mission.

Crew Dragon began its six-hour trip back to Earth after pulling away from the International Space Station, or ISS. SpaceX crews are now retrieving the capsule for transport back to Florida.

To say that the Crew Dragon did well would be a huge understatement.

SpaceX has been delivering goods to the ISS for several years now with its cargo version of the spacecraft.

While Dragon's crew member was a dummy named Ripley this time, the mission sets the stage for a manned flight, which will see two United States astronauts - one of them Behnken - book a return trip to the ISS sometime before the end of the year, according to Nasa.

NASA resumed talks with Russia's space agency Roscosmos in February seeking two additional Soyuz seats for 2020 to maintain a USA presence on the space station amid delays in the commercial crew program. According to NASA's Launch Schedule, the Crew Dragon's crewed mission, which will bring Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley to the ISS, is expected to take place sometime in July.

Nasa administrator Jim Bridenstine hailed the splashdown, saying it "marked another milestone in a new era of human spaceflight". NASA astronaut Anne McClain and Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques opened the hatch Sunday becoming the first to enter the new vehicle in space.

In so doing, NASA hopes to turn over the task of "routine" transportation to low-Earth orbit to the private sector, freeing up government resources for deep space exploration - a return to the moon and eventual flights to Mars.

NASA awarded the first contracts in 2014 to SpaceX and Boeing, now totalling about $8 billion.

The spaceship carried 180kg of supplies and test equipment, including a crash test dummy named Ripley, after Sigourney Weaver's character in Alien.

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