Crew Dragon has completed all four planned departure burns to begin its journey back to Earth with NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley.
With the spacecraft on its path home, the astronauts will settle in for an eight-hour sleep period. While they’re asleep, a six-minute departure phasing burn at 1:48 a.m. Sunday, Aug. 2 will set the Dragon Endeavour on the proper orbital path to a planned splashdown in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Pensacola, Florida.
NASA’s live coverage of the crew’s return home to Earth continues through the night.
Behnken and Hurley will begin their last day in space at 7:40 a.m. tomorrow.
The Crew Dragon will separate from its trunk and jettison it at 1:51 p.m., followed five minutes later at 1:56 p.m. with the start of the deorbit burn to commit the spacecraft to a trajectory to splashdown at 2:48 p.m.
The SpaceX Crew Dragon “Endeavour” spacecraft with NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley inside undocked from the forward end of the International Space Station’s Harmony module at 7:35 p.m. EDT to complete a two-month mission.
Two very small engine burns separated Crew Dragon from the station, and the spacecraft is slowly maneuvering away from the orbital laboratory into an orbital track that will return the astronaut crew and its cargo safely to Earth.
Once flying free, Dragon Endeavour will autonomously execute four departure burns to move the spaceship away from the space station and begin the flight home.
The return timeline with approximate times in EDT is:
7:35 p.m. Departure burn 0
7:40 p.m. Departure burn 1
8:27 p.m. Departure burn 2
9:14 p.m. Departure burn 3
1:51 p.m. Trunk jettison
1:56 p.m. Deorbit burn
2:48 p.m. Crew Dragon splashdown
NASA will continue to provide live coverage until astronaut Behnken and Hurley splashdown off the coast of Florida and are recovered from the Gulf of Mexico.
The duo 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.
NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley are now seated inside SpaceX’s Crew Dragon “Endeavour” spacecraft as fellow Expedition 63 astronauts Commander Chris Cassidy of NASA and Roscosmos cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner closed the hatch between Crew Dragon and the orbital laboratory at 5:37 p.m. EDT.
Teams will conduct standard leak checks and depressurization of the space between the spacecraft and the station, called the vestibule, in preparation for Dragon Endeavour’s undocking and return to Earth. Undocking is scheduled for 7:34 p.m. EDT. After hooks holding Crew Dragon in place retract, two very small engine burns will fire to separate the spacecraft from the station.
SpaceX and NASA are targeting 7:34 p.m. EDT for Crew Dragon to autonomously undock from the space station, with Behnken and Hurley aboard the spacecraft, and return to Earth. Approximately 19 hours later, after jettisoning its trunk and re-entering Earth’s atmosphere, Crew Dragon will splash down in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Florida at 2:48 p.m. EDT on Sunday, August 2. The primary splashdown target is Pensacola.
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. 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.
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.
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.
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 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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.