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SpaceX crew capsule returns to Earth, paves the way for human launches – Spaceflight Now

SpaceX's Crew Dragon spacecraft returned to Earth on Friday with a splashdown on the Atlantic. SpaceX's Crew Dragon spaceship closed out a six-day test flight in a low ground track Friday with a split on the Atlantic target and officials praised the ship's performance before flying with astronauts for the first time later this year . Delayed by four orange and white parachutes, the gumdrop-shaped spaceship sprayed into the Atlantic east of Florida at. 08.45 am EST (1345 GMT) Friday and space and NASA stores nearby sped against the canister, removed a parachute that dropped onto the boat after the landing and completed Crew Dragon for pickup. Around an hour after the splashdown, ground personnel hoisted the spacecraft on SpaceX's "Go Searcher" recycling vessel, where the Crew Dragon was expected to be moved to a hangar for the journey back to the Florida coast. Textbook splashdown Friday played a seemingly picture perfect mission, a precursor to NASA's plans for resume astronaut launching on US spacecraft to the International Space Station later this year. Since the last space shuttle landed in 2011, NASA astronauts have rode to space and back aboard Russian Soyuz ferries. "I can't believe how well the whole mission has gone," says Benji Reed, director of commercial crew management at SpaceX. "Almost a lot, I think, on all points everything has been nailed all the way, especially the last piece we were all very happy to see. When we went through re-entry and parachute, drogue deployer, headquarters, splashdown,…

SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft returned to Earth on Friday with a splashdown on the Atlantic. SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spaceship closed out a six-day test flight in a low ground track Friday with a split on the Atlantic target and officials praised the ship’s performance before flying with astronauts for the first time later this year .

Delayed by four orange and white parachutes, the gumdrop-shaped spaceship sprayed into the Atlantic east of Florida at. 08.45 am EST (1345 GMT) Friday and space and NASA stores nearby sped against the canister, removed a parachute that dropped onto the boat after the landing and completed Crew Dragon for pickup.

Around an hour after the splashdown, ground personnel hoisted the spacecraft on SpaceX’s “Go Searcher” recycling vessel, where the Crew Dragon was expected to be moved to a hangar for the journey back to the Florida coast.

Textbook splashdown Friday played a seemingly picture perfect mission, a precursor to NASA’s plans for resume astronaut launching on US spacecraft to the International Space Station later this year. Since the last space shuttle landed in 2011, NASA astronauts have rode to space and back aboard Russian Soyuz ferries.

“I can’t believe how well the whole mission has gone,” says Benji Reed, director of commercial crew management at SpaceX. “Almost a lot, I think, on all points everything has been nailed all the way, especially the last piece we were all very happy to see. When we went through re-entry and parachute, drogue deployer, headquarters, splashdown, everything just happened Perfect, the right time, how we expected it. “NASA officials, who have paid SpaceX more than $ 3 billion since 2010 to develop the Crew Dragon spacecraft, agreed with Reed’s preliminary assessment.

“I don’t think we really saw anything on (Crew Dragon Test Flight) missions so far – and we have to do the data analysis – it would preclude us having crews on missions later this year,” said Steve Stich, NASA’s Deputy Director commercial crew program

The six day test flight – known as Demo-1 or DM-1 – was a crucial driver before a second orbit test flight – Demo 2 or DM-2 – blast with NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley on the next Crew Dragon spacecraft later this year.

The Crew Dragon canister for Demo-1 mission was launched on March 2 on a rocket spaceX Falcon 9 from NASA’s Kennedy The Space Center in Florida and reached the Space Station on March 3 with a successful automatic docking, the first fully automatic link up with the space station of an American spacecraft.

There were no astronauts on board, but the Crew Dragon drank an instrumented test doll named “Ripley”, a node to the protagonist from the “Alien” movie franchise. Ripley traveled in one of the Crew Dragon’s four locations, and sensors in the manikin’s head, neck and spine collected measurements on the g forces and other conditions that astronauts on the ship will experience.

A plush earth toy was also launched inside the Dragon crew and earning worship from the space station crew, which held “Little Earth” inside the orbiting science lab after the space capsule departed Friday. Behnken and Hurley will bring “Little Earth” at home on their test flight.

Crew Dragon moved nearly 450 pounds (204 kilos) of equipment to the space station – mainly crew members – and The astronauts planned to pack around 148 kg (148 kg) of hardware and scientific samples into the canister’s pressurized cabin for the journey back to earth.

Canadian air engineer David Saint-Jacques and NASA astronaut Anne McClain closed gaps leading to Crew Dragon spacecraft Thursday, setting up the ship’s undocking from the station’s Harmony module ahead at 2:31 am EST (0731 GMT) Friday. The vehicle fired its Draco thrusters to return from the space station and then achieved several additional breaks to fly a safe distance from the complex in preparation for landing.

The capsule jettisoned its rear luggage at 07:48 EST (1248 GMT), which left the energy module behind the orbit, as the crew return vessel ignited its Draco thrusters again at 19:52 EST (1252 GMT) in a 15-minute 25-second brake firing. The impulse from the deorbit burning slowed the canister’s speed enough to release its orbit into the atmosphere, allowing friction from air particles to bring Crew Dragon back to earth.

The Crew Dragon spacecraft shrinks away from the International Space Station after losing Friday. Credit: SpaceX

After closing a protective nose over its docking gate and hatch, the canister encountered the first traces of the atmosphere at 13:33 EST (1333 GMT) as it flew on northwest-southeast trails across the US and temperatures outside of Crew Dragon built up to thousands of degrees.

A NASA WB-57 research aircraft flying across the Atlantic captured live infrared video by the Crew Dragon spacecraft coming from reintegrated plasma slice, then the spacecraft deploying a pair of drogue stabilization parachutes, followed by deployment of four orange and white headwaters.

The parachute deployment was closely followed by SpaceX and NASA engineers. The older cargo-carrying dragon spacecraft comes down under three gutters, while the heavier Crew Dragon requires four and parachute deviations during the test – and upon the return of a dragon supply vessel – has put the system under major scrutiny from engineers and security managers.

The rails seemed to work normally Friday, and live video beamed from the mudguard showed the canister – its heat shield was darkened from the fiery re-insertion – sank during a morning sun before splashing more than 250 miles (400 kilometers) northeast of Cape Canaveral, roughly in east from the Florida-Georgia border.

SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft falls under its four largest parachutes Friday. Credit: NASA / Cory Huston

“All these gazillions of tests we’ve done on parachutes, all the analysis and work we’ve done to understand the re-entry and return aerodynamics, everything was Stich, a former spaceflight commander, let one repeating after Crew Dragon’s Demo-1 flight: It was “phenomenal.” “There was a good dress rehearsal for Demo-2 (crew test flight),” Stich said. “We learned a phenomenal amount in the pre-launch time frame, on how to load the vehicle and think about how to place the crew in the vehicle. The ascension profile for this flight, we practiced the exact profile that (astronauts) will fly very soon. We had the abortion system, the crew escape system in the Dragon, actually enabled for this flight, and we could see how it worked, and we will get the data back and look at these triggers and how it was performed.

“On track, we got very good data on the vehicle in terms of thermal performance, performance,” Stich said. “The vehicle really did better than we expected, and then it was rendezvous phenomenal when we came in (and) checked out these sensors. The link to the space station worked, the command line … And then got a real accurate dock and see how the docking system did, was phenomenal. “

The return from the space station went just as well said Stich .

“Today, the unhappy and looking at how these systems worked, it went smoothly,” he said. “There is a very tight sequence between undocking and deorbit burning, how the nose cone performed, how the deorbite was performed, and then the record was phenomenal.”

Weeks of data reviews lie for NASA and SpaceX engineers to analyze Crew Dragon test flight results in more detail.

“This mission was only six days long,” Stich said. “It was a sprint from start to finish.”

SpaceX will renovate the Crew Dragon canister that returned to Earth on Friday for an aircraft crash test scheduled for June. The interrupt system attempt verifies that Crew Dragon’s eight SuperDraco thrusters can safely shoot the canister from an exploding starter in flight, using a modified Falcon 9 booster to reach supersonic speed in the stratosphere before triggering the triggering action.

Meanwhile, workers at SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California, continue to mount Crew Dragon spacecraft for the test flight with astronauts.

SpaceX’s first spacecraft spacecraft slated to fly with astronauts on the Demo-2 mission gathered and tested at the company’s headquarters in Hawthorne, California. This image of the canister was taken in August 2018. Credit: Stephen Clark / Spaceflight Now

Assuming the data overview, the test interrupts with high altitude and unsolved technical problems in the coming months, Behnken and Hurley could attach to the next Crew Dragon spacecraft as soon as possible. as of July according to the latest schedule officially published by NASA

. In their comments this week during the Crew Dragon test flight, NASA and SpaceX officials did not remain on the Juliplan for the demonstration launch with astronauts. But top executives, including NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine, said they were convinced that a commercial canister developed by SpaceX or Boeing would be ready for a human spaceflight by the end of the year.

“One of the things we are very excited about from this DM-1 mission is the first time we have seen an end-to-test,” said Mike Hopkins, an astronaut assigned to Crew Dragon’s third space mission, the second with the astronauts board. “So now we have brought together the people, the hardware and all the processes and procedures and seen how they all work together, and that is very important when we move towards putting people on board the vehicle.” [19659003] ” We are very interested in seeing data, “Hopkins said Friday.” I suspect there will be some lessons, some improvements, some changes that we will have to make from this. It is part of the test process. “

NASA says SpaceX still needs to complete additional tests of Crew Dragon’s parachutes before spacecraft can ride the spacecraft. Engineers may need to install heater heaters that lead to the canister’s Draco thrusters to address a concern that Cold fuel can cause shock and damage to the control beams. SpaceX kept hydrazine and nitrogen tetroxide propellants hot on the unilotated test flight my pointing some parts of the spacecraft against the sun. NASA is likely to want a more permanent solution before the astronauts get the green light to fly.

Engineers also study the safety of carbon-coated pressure vessels inside the Falcon 9 rocket and the spacecraft Crew Dragon, officials said before last week’s launch.

The vessels on the Falcon 9 rocket contain helium to pressurize the launch vehicle’s fuel tanks. SpaceX began to fly a discontinued helium reservoir last year with fixer fo is to avoid a problem that caused friction in the fibers on the outside of one of the vessels, which led to a spark inside an oxygen tank that destroyed a Falcon 9 rocket and a commercial communications satellite during a pre-launch test in 2016.

“We are very interested in seeing data,” Hopkins said Friday. “I suspect there will be some lessons, some improvements, some changes that we will have to make from this. It’s part of the test process.”

Crew Dragon Spacecraft aboard the Go Searcher recovery screen after Friday’s splashdown. Credit: NASA / Cory Huston

Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner crew capsule, also funded primarily by a multibillion-dollar NASA contract, is scheduled to lift a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket later this year for an unilateral test flight to the space station, similar to the mission just finished by SpaceX.

The latest schedule released by NASA shows that the first Starliner test flight could start as soon as April. But it is generally expected to be delayed for some time this summer, as early as the Boeing engineers face their own technical problems.

When the spacecraft Crew Dragon and Starliner have completed their test aircraft, NASA plans to use the canisters to transport astronauts to and from the space station for six months, ending the authority’s only dependence on Russia’s Soyuz spacecraft.

Bridenstine, the NASA administrator, promised government leaders to keep the agency engaged in commercializing low-Earth orbit human space flow operations, an initiative launched during the George W. Bush Freight Services administration, then expanded by President Barack Obama 2010 for crews.

“This really is an American achievement spanning many generations of NASA administrators, and indeed over a decade of the work of the NASA team,” Bridenstine said.

Some of the Congress backed NASA’s efforts to reverse crew transport to the commercial sector, preferring to maintain government control and cutting the program budget under what the agency said it needed. The lack of funding, in combination with technical reconstructions and development problems, led to the first commercial crew test flights being delayed from 2015 until this year.

The delays have forced NASA to continue buying Soyuz sites from the Russian government for years than officials hoped. NASA is considering an option to purchase two additional Soyuz sites, which include launches and landings through September 2020, to secure additional delays in space and Boeing staff programs.

“It seems like we are leaning from one administration to the next, and changing visions and changing budgets,” Bridenstine said Friday. “How do we keep going? Well, this is a perfect example of a program. When we talk about these things that NASA does, in many cases it takes decades to achieve this kind of ability, and it is important that it is important this goal for all these years.

“Now, NASA can be a customer,” Sade bridenstine. “We can a customer from many customers for human space flight in what we believe will be a very robust commercial market for space business, and we will have many providers that will compete for cost and innovation. “

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Follow Stephen Clark on Twitter: @ StephenClark1 .

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