SpaceX Crew Dragon Successfully Lands Back on Earth
Early this morning SpaceX and their Crew Dragon capsule marked the end of its first official test flight to the International Space Station and back with a successful landing back in the Atlantic Ocean.
Last Saturday a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket blasted off from Cape Canaveral Florida carrying the new Crew Dragon Capsule. This test mission was the first flight of the Crew Dragon capsule and would be the first time it docked with the International Space Station. The initial launch and docking was a success, and the capsule spent a week docked to the ISS for testing.
This morning around 2:32 AM ET the Crew Dragon undocked from the ISS and began it's autonomous journey back to earth. After moving far enough away from the space station, Crew Dragon separated from the trunk section attached to the capsule which provides power and temperature control during flight. It then fired its main rocket boosters for 15 minutes taking the craft out of orbit and sending it on course for a landing. Soon after the Crew Dragon reentered the earth atmosphere travelling faster than the speed of sound and experiencing immense heat. After slowing down due to air resistance, the four main parachutes were deployed, and the Crew Dragon splashed down in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Florida.
“The vehicle really did better than we expected,” Steve Stich, deputy manager of flight development and operations for Commercial Crew, said on NASA’s live stream following the splashdown.
The Crew Dragon was then hoisted abort the SpaceX ship called "Go Searcher" and will be transported back to port where SpaceX will study the craft and work to make it operational for the next test.
Crew Dragon is on SpaceX’s recovery vessel—completing the spacecraft’s first test mission! pic.twitter.com/6K0qgnHd4O— SpaceX (@SpaceX) March 8, 2019
The next big test for the SpaceX Crew Dragon is a launch abort test. This launch will see the Falcon 9 and Crew Dragon launch from Cape Canaveral, but shortly after launch, the Crew Dragon will fire up its launch abort engines and separate from the main rocket. Following the separation, it will deploy its parachutes and land back in the Atlantic Ocean. This is a significant test for the new capsule and will be used to save the astronauts lives if something goes wrong during launch.
Just last year the Soyuz rocket had to perform an emergency abort when one of its side boosters collided with the main rocket stage upon separation. This caused the craft to begin to oscillate back and forth, and eventually, the crew initiated a lunch abort. The Soyuz capsule then separated from the main rocket and landed back on earth only moments after the rocket took off. Luckily everyone was safe, and it proves that the launch abort systems are a crucial part of current rocket technology.
Looking into the future if all goes well with the next round of test NASA and SpaceX hope to launch two astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley into space by July of this year, marking the first time a commercial spacecraft has ever transported passengers to the ISS.