NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 Ready to Return to Earth

NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley inside the SpaceX Crew Dragon "Endeavor" spacecraft.
NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley inside the SpaceX Crew Dragon “Endeavor” spacecraft. Image credit: NASA TV

The SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft carrying NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 crew members, NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley, is slated to begin the trip back to Earth today at the conclusion of an end-to-end flight test to the International Space Station. NASA and SpaceX are targeting splashdown in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Pensacola, Florida, at approximately 2:48 p.m. EDT. This is the first return of a commercially built and operated American spacecraft carrying astronauts from the International Space Station.

Weather conditions remain within the splashdown weather criteria and are “Go” at the primary targeted site. 

Coming up, the Crew Dragon’s trunk will separate from the spacecraft, followed by the deorbit burn, which begins at 1:56 p.m. EDT. The “Go” for the deorbit burn was relayed to the crew at 12:58 p.m. EDT by SpaceX Crew Operations and Resources Engineer (CORE) Mike Heiman.

Here is a look at the upcoming milestones (all times Eastern): 

  • 1:51 p.m. – Crew Dragon performs claw separation. The claw is located on Crew Dragon’s trunk, connecting thermal control, power, and avionics system components located on the trunk to the capsule.  
  • 1:51 p.m. – Trunk separation 
  • 1:56 p.m. – Deorbit burn begins
  • 2:08 p.m. – Deorbit burn complete 
  • 2:11 p.m. – Nosecone deploys 
  • 2:32 p.m. – Crew Dragon maneuvers to attitude for re-entry 
  • 2:44 p.m. – Drogue parachutes deploy at about 18,000 feet in altitude while Crew Dragon is moving approximately 350 miles per hour. 
  • 2:45 p.m. – Main parachutes deploy at about 6,000 feet in altitude while Crew Dragon is moving approximately 119 miles per hour. 
  • 2:48 p.m. – Splashdown 

The Crew Dragon undocked from the International Space Station yesterday at 7:35 p.m. EDT, ending 63 days of docked operations at the orbiting laboratory. Hurley and Behnken arrived at the orbiting laboratory in the Crew Dragon May 31 following a launch from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on May 30 – the first flight of American astronauts on an American-built spacecraft from American soil in nearly a decade.

Demo-2 tested the performance of the entire SpaceX crew transportation system, from launch to docking to splashdown. It was the final flight test for the system to be certified for regular crew flights to the station as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

More details about the return can be found in the Top 10 Things to Know for NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 Return.

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