Monday, 19 August, 2019

SpaceX's Crew Dragon Splashes Down Following Successful Test Flight

Falcon 9 CRS-15 A SpaceX Falcon 9 lifts off from SLC-40 June 29 carrying a Dragon cargo spacecraft bound for the International Space Station. Credit NASA TV
Sandra Phillips | 13 March, 2019, 16:21

Ever since the United States shuttle program ended in 2011, astronauts - both American and those from other nations - have been dependent on the Russian Soyuz spacecraft to go to and from the International Space Station (ISS).

Once the two astronauts will land safely, it's expected that contracted missions with the capsule, which will carry four astronauts at a time, will become a regular occurrence.

SpaceX's Crew Dragon capsule splashed down in the Atlantic Ocean on Friday, completing a NASA demonstration mission that paves the way for the resumption of manned space flights from the US. Dragon also marks a return to a "vintage" format: it is the first U.S. capsule since the pioneering Apollo program.

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Pending the analysis of flight data, everything indicated that SpaceX - founded in 2002 by Elon Musk - had passed its test from beginning to end, a result that drew widespread praise. In addition to 400 lbs of supplies for members, the Crew Dragon also carried its first "astronaut" - a manikin named Ripley. Ripley was riddled with sensors to monitor how flight in the capsule would feel for humans. The mission began March 2, when the Crew Dragon launched from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, and racked up a number of "firsts" in less than a week. Upon entering the Earth's atmospheres, it deployed a set of four parachutes to help slow down its rapid pace. "It was lovely", said Benji Reed, director of crew mission management at SpaceX.

"Today's successful re-entry and recovery of the Crew Dragon capsule after its first mission to the International Space Station marked another important milestone in the future of human spaceflight", said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. It comprises eight SuperDraco thrusters that can ignite during the ascent and fly a Crew Dragon capsule far away from its failing Falcon 9 rocket.

First commercially-built and operated American crew spacecraft and rocket to launch from American soil on a mission to the space station. Shuttles took American astronauts to space from 1981 to 2011, but their cost proved prohibitive, while two of the original four craft had catastrophic accidents, killing 14 crew members.After the program was retired, the USA government, under then president Barack Obama, turned toward SpaceX and Boeing to develop a new way to ferry its crews, paying the firms for their transport services.Due to about three years of development delays, the switch has come to fruition under Trump. Boeing plans to test an uncrewed mission on its Starliner spacecraft in early April.

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