NASA, SpaceX Proceed Toward Crew Dragon Splashdown

The SpaceX Crew Dragon astronauts (front row, from left) Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley joined their Expedition 63 crewmates (rear, from left) Ivan Vagner, Chris Cassidy and Anatoly Ivanishin for a crew farewell ceremony Saturday morning. Credit: NASA TV
The SpaceX Crew Dragon astronauts (front row, from left) Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley joined their Expedition 63 crewmates (rear, from left) Ivan Vagner, Chris Cassidy and Anatoly Ivanishin for a crew farewell ceremony Saturday morning. Credit: NASA TV

Teams from NASA and SpaceX are proceeding with preparations to bring NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley home from the International Space Station to Earth with a splashdown on Sunday, Aug. 2, off the Florida coast aboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon “Endeavour” spacecraft.

Watch the crew farewell ceremony on YouTube.

Return conditions remained “Go” at several of the needed target locations for splashdown and recovery after teams received a weather briefing Friday evening from the U.S. Air Force 45th Weather Squadron. NASA and SpaceX will make a decision on a primary splashdown target approximately 6 hours before undocking.

NASA and SpaceX are targeting 7:34 p.m. EDT Saturday, Aug. 1, for undocking of the Dragon “Endeavour” spacecraft from the space station and 2:42 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 2, for splashdown, which will be the first return of a commercially built and operated American spacecraft carrying astronauts from the space station.

Teams continue to closely monitor Hurricane Isaias and evaluate impacts to the landing sites in the Gulf of Mexico along the Florida Panhandle. Teams have several weather decision milestones ahead of and after undocking to adjust the splashdown location and time based on the forecasted conditions for recovery.

NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 return coverage is as follows (all times Eastern):

Saturday, Aug. 1

  • 5:15 p.m. – NASA TV undocking coverage begins for the 7:34 p.m. undocking (NASA Television will have continuous coverage from undocking to splashdown)

Sunday, Aug. 2

  • 2:42 p.m. – Splashdown
  • 5 p.m. – Administrator post-splashdown news conference at Johnson, with the following representatives:
    • NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine
    • Commercial Crew Program representative
    • International Space Station representative
    • Gwynne Shotwell, president and chief operating officer, SpaceX
    • NASA Astronaut Office representative

Tuesday, Aug. 4 

  • 4:30 p.m. – Demo-2 Crew News Conference from the Johnson Space Center, with the following participants
    • NASA astronaut Bob Behnken
    • NASA astronaut Doug Hurley

Behnken and Hurley arrived at the orbiting laboratory on May 31, following a successful launch on May 30 on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. During their 63 days aboard station, Behnken and Hurley contributed more than 100 hours of time to supporting the orbiting laboratory’s investigations, participated in public engagement events, and supported four spacewalks with Behnken and Cassidy to install new batteries in the station’s power grid and upgrade other station hardware.

These activities are a part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, which has been working with the U.S. aerospace industry to launch astronauts on American rockets and spacecraft from American soil the International Space Station for the first time since 2011. This is SpaceX’s final test flight and is providing data on the performance of the Falcon 9 rocket, Crew Dragon spacecraft and ground systems, as well as in-orbit, docking, splashdown and recovery operations.

The test flight also is helping NASA certify SpaceX’s crew transportation system for regular flights carrying astronauts to and from the space station. SpaceX is readying the hardware for the first rotational mission, which would occur following NASA certification.

The goal of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program is safe, reliable and cost-effective transportation to and from the International Space Station. This could allow for additional research time and increase the opportunity for discovery aboard humanity’s testbed for exploration, including helping us prepare for human exploration of the Moon and Mars.

More details about the mission and NASA’s commercial crew program can be found in the press kit online and by following the commercial crew blog@commercial_crew and commercial crew on Facebook.

Learn more about station activities by following @space_station and @ISS_Research

on Twitter as well as the ISS Facebook and ISS Instagram accounts.

Crew Dragon Go For Splashdown, Station Science Continues

NASA and SpaceX mission managers met Thursday night and are proceeding, weather permitting, with the return to Earth of two astronauts. Meanwhile, space research to improve life for humans on and off the planet kept the Expedition 63 crew busy today.

Flight Engineers Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken are packing up to end a two-month mission aboard the International Space Station. They are scheduled to board the Crew Dragon spacecraft and undock on Saturday evening from the Harmony module’s international docking adapter. The duo would splashdown on Sunday wrapping up NASA’s first crewed mission since 2011. NASA TV will provide continuous coverage of the departure and Earth return activities.

The veteran astronauts also completed their science assignments today that saw studies into unique fluids, biomedicine, autonomous robotics and more. However, Commander Chris Cassidy, who is staying in space until October, was busy all-day researching water droplets, observing extreme temperatures and sequencing microbial DNA.

Hurley serviced science freezers that preserve biological samples for later analysis. He finally powered down the Astrobee free-flying robots that will soon see students competing to create the best algorithms to control the devices. Behnken finalized his work observing microgravity’s effects on water droplets to improve conservation and pressure techniques.

The orbiting lab’s two cosmonauts from Roscosmos, Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner, continued their schedule of science and maintenance today. Ivanishin worked on a variety of communications gear during the morning before activating Russian radiation detectors in the afternoon. Vagner once again photographed Earth landmarks today then sampled the station’s air and surfaces to analyze and identify microbes.

Astronauts Talk to Press on Friday Before Crew Dragon Departure

NASA astronauts (from left) Bob Behnken, Doug Hurley and Chris Cassidy are the U.S. members of the Expedition 63 crew.
NASA astronauts (from left) Bob Behnken, Doug Hurley and Chris Cassidy are the U.S. members of the Expedition 63 crew.

Two Flight Engineers and the Expedition 63 Commander, all from NASA, will talk to journalists Friday morning before the SpaceX Crew Dragon completes its stay at the International Space Station.

Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken, NASA’s first commercial crew, have been aboard the orbiting lab since May 31. They have been packing the Crew Dragon spacecraft and testing its systems to get ready for this weekend’s scheduled undocking and return to Earth. NASA TV will provide continuous live coverage of their departure and splashdown activities.

The NASA station trio, including Commander Chris Cassidy, will answer questions Friday morning from a variety of reporters calling up to space. NASA TV will broadcast the Crew News Conference live beginning at 10:45 a.m. EDT.

Orbital science is still ongoing today amidst Hurley and Behnken’s departure preparations. Cassidy was observing how microgravity shapes water droplets possibly improving water conservation and water pressure techniques on Earth. Even the homebound duo put in some research time studying light-manipulating materials and starting up an experimental radiation detector.

Earth observations are part of the critical research program taking place onboard the station. First-time cosmonaut Ivan Vagner photographed Earth landmarks today to understand and forecast the effects of natural and man-made catastrophes. Veteran cosmonaut Anatoly Ivanishin continued unloading the new Progress 76 cargo craft while updating the station’s inventory system.

NASA, SpaceX Preparing For Crew Return

NASA's first commercial crew astronauts (from left) Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken are preparing for their return to Earth aboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft.
NASA’s first commercial crew astronauts (from left) Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken are preparing for their return to Earth aboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft.

NASA and SpaceX teams remain “Go” for the return of the agency’s SpaceX Demo-2 test flight with NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley from the International Space Station following the Return Flight Readiness Review, with the primary factor being weather.

NASA and SpaceX are targeting 7:34 p.m. EDT Saturday, Aug. 1, for undocking of the Dragon “Endeavour” spacecraft from the space station and 2:42 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 2, for splashdown, which will be the first return of a commercially built and operated American spacecraft carrying astronauts from the space station.

NASA and SpaceX will hold the Return Flight Readiness Review briefing at 3:30 p.m. EDT on NASA TV and the agency’s website from the Johnson Space Center to talk the details of the return of the end-to-end test flight. Participants are:

  • NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine
  • Steve Stich, manager, NASA’s Commercial Crew Program
  • Joel Montalbano, manager, NASA’s International Space Station Program
  • Benji Reed, director, crew mission management, SpaceX

The test flight also is helping NASA certify SpaceX’s crew transportation system for regular flights carrying astronauts to and from the space station. SpaceX is readying the hardware for the first rotational mission, which would occur following NASA certification.

The goal of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program is safe, reliable and cost-effective transportation to and from the International Space Station. This could allow for additional research time and increase the opportunity for discovery aboard humanity’s testbed for exploration, including helping us prepare for human exploration of the Moon and Mars.

Crew Dragon Suit Checks as Station Begins Orbital Reboosts

This long-exposure photograph from the space station reveals the Milky Way glittering above a bright but exaggerated atmospheric glow blanketing the Earth's horizon.
This long-exposure photograph from the space station reveals the Milky Way glittering above a bright but exaggerated atmospheric glow blanketing the Earth’s horizon.

The Expedition 63 crew checked out SpaceX Crew Dragon suits today and stayed busy with a full slate of space research. The International Space Station also completed the first of three orbital reboosts to get ready for the next crew mission in October.

Flight Engineers Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken inspected the suits they will wear when they return to Earth aboard the Crew Dragon spaceship. The duo tried on their suits for a fit check and ensured the components are in good condition. They are scheduled to depart the station on Saturday and splashdown the following day. NASA TV will cover all the departure activities live.

The homebound-duo started the day replacing environmental control system (ECS) hardware aboard the orbiting lab. That work required temporarily removing a plant habitat from the Unity module to access the ECS.

Commander Chris Cassidy had his hands full as he worked on specialized hardware that enables research into disordered solids, or glass, and materials heated to extreme temperatures. He first set up a Light Microscopy Module that will look at the microscopic transition of glass-forming materials. Next, he worked on the Electromagnetic Levitator that observes the thermophysical properties of liquid metallic alloys.

Roscosmos cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner stayed busy today as they checked out Orlan spacesuits, serviced life support gear and analyzed station air samples for impurities.

The docked Progress 75 resupply ship fired its engines this morning for five-and-a-half minutes slightly lifting the station’s orbit. There will be two more station reboosts before the Soyuz MS-17 crew ship launches in October with NASA astronaut Kate Rubins and cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov. They will dock to the Rassvet module a few hours after launch to begin a six-month mission as the Expedition 64 crew.

Wide Range of Space Science Keeps Crew Busy

This picture from the station reveals the Milky Way glittering above a bright but exaggerated atmospheric glow that blankets the Earth's horizon.
This long-exposure photograph from the station reveals the Milky Way glittering above the Earth’s horizon.

The Expedition 63 crew tackled a wide range of advanced space science today as NASA’s first commercial astronauts near their departure. Robotics, genetics and fluids were just a portion of today’s research schedule as the International Space Station residents work with scientists helping to improve conditions for astronauts and Earthlings.

Flight Engineer Doug Hurley checked on AstroBee, a set of free-flying robotic assistants onboard the station, preparing it for a student programming competition later this year. Fellow NASA astronaut Bob Behnken studied how weightlessness forms water droplets to promote water conservation and improve water pressure in faucets and shower heads.

The duo continued packing their SpaceX Crew Dragon vehicle ahead of their scheduled departure and splashdown this weekend. NASA TV is broadcasting manager briefings, the crew news conference, the undocking and return to Earth live.

Commander Chris Cassidy checked the DNA profiles of microbe samples swabbed from station surfaces. Cassidy identified the bacteria living on the station using the portable, off-the-shelf technology familiar in laboratories and classrooms.

Earth observations were the prime research focus in the Russian side of the orbiting lab today. Cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner used specialized imaging hardware to look at Earth’s upper atmosphere and photograph areas to identify catastrophes and hazards.

Robotics, Biomedicine Research Today During Crew Departure Preps

Sunrise casts long shadows from the clouds across the Philippine Sea
Sunrise casts long shadows from the clouds across the Philippine Sea as the International Space Station orbited about 200 miles east of Taiwan.

The Expedition 63 crew focused on robotic assistants and biomedicine today while preparing for two crew members to depart this weekend. The International Space Station residents are also cleaning U.S. spacesuits and unloading a Russian cargo craft.

NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken are packing up for their return to Earth this weekend after two months aboard the orbiting lab. The duo is scheduled to enter their SpaceX Crew Dragon on Aug. 1 and undock from the Harmony module’s international docking adapter for a nominal splashdown the next day, they will be retrieved by SpaceX and NASA personnel. NASA TV is covering all the events live including briefings this week highlighting the agency’s first crewed mission aboard a commercial spacecraft.

Hurley still managed to work a pair of different experiments today as he trained to operate the AstroBee free-flying robots and explored light-manipulating materials. Behnken continued his post-spacewalk activities throughout Monday as he cleaned and serviced the spacesuits he and Commander Chris Cassidy wore during last week’s spacewalk.

Cassidy began his workday retrieving and stowing a small satellite deployer inside Japan’s Kibo laboratory module. The station commander next checked out hardware that analyzes how DNA from a variety of organisms adapts to microgravity.

In the Russian segment of the station, veteran cosmonaut Anatoly Ivanishin continued unpacking the Progress 76 resupply ship that docked last week to the Pirs docking compartment. First-time space flyer Ivan Vagner juggled two different studies as he observed the enzymes of microorganisms and photographed the Earth to help forecast natural and man-made catastrophes.

Two Astronauts Prep for Homecoming After Spacewalk and Cargo Mission

NASA spacewalker Bob Behnken takes a "space-selfie" with his helmet visor up on his U.S. spacesuit.
NASA spacewalker Bob Behnken takes a “space-selfie” with his helmet visor up on his U.S. spacesuit.

The Expedition 63 crew has started the weekend following a spacewalk and a same-day delivery this week to resupply the International Space Station. Two NASA astronauts are also getting ready to return to Earth after a two-month stay in space.

Commander Chris Cassidy cleaned water loops today inside the U.S. spacesuits he and Flight Engineer Bob Behnken wore during Tuesday’s five-hour and 29-minute spacewalk. The skilled astronaut has chalked up 10 career spacewalks gaining nearly 55 hours of external lab maintenance experience. This was also the tenth spacewalk for Behnken netting him just over 61 hours of service outside the station.

Behnken is now turning his attention to readying the SpaceX Crew Dragon vehicle that will return he and fellow NASA astronaut Doug Hurley to Earth at the beginning of August. They will undock from the Harmony module’s international docking adapter on Aug. 1. The duo will splashdown on Aug. 2 ending NASA’s first crewed mission aboard a commercial spacecraft.

Behnken and Hurley packed clothing, personal items and other gear today inside the Crew Dragon. The two astronauts also tried on a specialized suit to help their bodies adapt to the conditions of Earth’s gravity upon their return.

Five spaceships are parked at the station after Thursday’s arrival of Russia’s Progress 76 (76P) resupply ship less than three-and-half hours after launch. Veteran cosmonaut Anatoly Ivanishin has begun unpacking some of the nearly three tons of cargo delivered aboard the 76P. Fellow Roscosmos cosmonaut Ivan Vagner assisted with the cargo transfers and updated the station’s inventory management system.

Crew Awaits Cargo, Works Science and Departure Following Spacewalk

Expedition 63 Commander Chris Cassidy conducts a spacewalk
Expedition 63 Commander Chris Cassidy conducts a spacewalk to set up the Tranquility module for the future installation of a NanoRacks airlock.

The Expedition 63 crew is turning its attention to Thursday’s express cargo delivery mission following a successful spacewalk on Tuesday.

Russia’s Progress 76 (76P) rocket stands at its launch pad in Kazakhstan packed with nearly three tons of food, fuel and supplies to replenish the International Space Station. The 76P will blast off at 10:26 a.m. EDT from the Baikonur Cosmodrome and dock to the station’s Pirs docking compartment at 1:47 p.m. NASA TV is broadcasting the launch starting at 10 a.m. and returns at 1 p.m. to cover the 76P’s approach and rendezvous.

NASA Commander Chris Cassidy and Flight Engineer Bob Behnken took it easy Wednesday morning after a five-hour and 29-minute spacewalk on Tuesday. The duo then participated in standard health checks before a series of two-hour cycling and jogging workout sessions. The astronauts, who now have 10 spacewalks each, finished the day servicing U.S. spacesuits and cleaning up the Quest airlock.

Cassidy also managed to juggle a pair of science experiments as he stowed student-controlled Earth observation gear then collected samples for a food physiology study. Behnken joined his fellow SpaceX Crew Dragon crewmate Doug Hurley and began packing for their return to Earth and splashdown in the Gulf of Mexico on Aug. 2.

Cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner are ready and will be on duty Thursday afternoon monitoring the arrival of the 76P. However, the duo spent Wednesday on a variety of Russian science and maintenance tasks. Ivanishin checked air flow sensors and cleaned vents and fans. Ivanishin worked on specialized Earth observation gear throughout the day before downloading radiation readings.

Station Ready for Spacewalk and Cargo Mission This Week

NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy works during a six-hour spacewalk.
NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy works during a spacewalk on July 16 to install lithium-ion batteries on the station’s truss structure. A tiny waning crescent Moon is pictured in the background

The Expedition 63 crew is preparing for another spacewalk at the International Space Station on Tuesday and will welcome a Russian space delivery on Thursday. NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine also announced the upcoming return to Earth of two SpaceX Crew Dragon crew members.

NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Chris Cassidy are set to venture once again into the vacuum of space on Tuesday at approximately 7:35 a.m. EDT. The veteran spacewalking duo will service the orbiting lab’s starboard truss structure following last week’s lithium-ion battery installations. The spacewalkers also will outfit the Tranquility module to get ready for a new commercial airlock from NanoRacks. A SpaceX Dragon space freighter will deliver the specialized airlock later this year that will enable public and private research on the outside of the space station.

Flight Engineer Doug Hurley joined his NASA crewmates today for a review of Tuesday’s spacewalk procedures. He also helped Cassidy and Behnken organize tools and tethers before calling down to mission controllers to discuss their spacewalk readiness.

Behnken and Hurley will soon turn their attention toward returning to Earth at the beginning of August. They will wrap up their two-month station mission on Aug. 1 and undock their SpaceX Crew Dragon vehicle from the Harmony module’s international docking adapter. They are due to splash down off the Gulf coast of Florida on Aug. 2 less than 19 hours after leaving the station.

Russia is getting ready to launch its Progress 76 (76P) resupply ship on Thursday at 10:26 a.m. to replenish the five orbital residents. The 76P will blast off from Kazakhstan with nearly three tons of food, fuel and supplies and dock less than three-and-a-half hours later to the station’s Pirs docking compartment.

Cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner trained Monday morning in the Zvezda service module for the spacecraft’s arrival. The pair practiced computer commands to remotely maneuver the 76P in the unlikely event the resupply ship lost its automated rendezvous capabilities.