Dragonship Endeavour is flying free, on its way back to Earth

Dragonship Endeavour is flying free, on its way back to Earth

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Eric Berger
2020-08-01 20:42:21

Crew Dragon backs away from the International Space Station on Saturday.
Enlarge / Crew Dragon backs away from the Worldwide House Station on Saturday.


On Saturday night the Crew Dragon spacecraft carrying NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken, named Dragonship Endeavour, undocked from the Worldwide House Station to start its journey residence.

The undocking got here after NASA and SpaceX decided the spacecraft would discover calm seas and lightweight winds off the coast from the Florida Panhandle, within the Gulf of Mexico, on Sunday. This would be the first water touchdown for a U.S. spacecraft since 1975, when an Apollo capsule splashed down after the Apollo-Soyuz Check Mission within the Pacific Ocean. Touchdown is slated for two:48pm ET (18:40 UTC). A remaining name on climate will probably be made on Sunday.

After transferring away from the “Hold Out Sphere” surrounding the area station, Endeavour will put distance between itself and the orbiting laboratory earlier than performing extra engine burns. It will set the spacecraft up for a de-orbit burn on Sunday, about 50 minutes earlier than splashdown. Requested what he and Behnken would spend most of their remaining night time in area doing, Hurley quipped throughout a information convention with reporters this week, “Sleeping.”

For many of us, sleeping in area, on the night time earlier than an historic water touchdown, would in all probability show troublesome. However Hurley and Behnken are professionals, each with practically two-decade lengthy careers as astronauts. And that is good, as a result of there positively are some dangers forward of tomorrow’s touchdown.

Though NASA and SpaceX have pushed Dragon and its 4 foremost parachutes by way of all method of assessments, this model of the Dragon spacecraft has ever solely been examined throughout your entire touchdown course of as soon as—during the Demo-1 mission in March, 2019.

One concern includes the uneven design of Dragon’s backshell, the place eight SuperDraco thrusters are embedded in 4 engine pods. As a result of the 4 engine pods jut out from the edges of the spacecraft, Dragon lacks uniformity in its form about its axis of revolution. This asymmetry may theoretically trigger Dragon to roll throughout its reentry into Earth’s ambiance.

To account for this, SpaceX and NASA have carried out greater than 1,000 laptop simulations that mannequin the Dragon’s form and its path by way of the ambiance. With heating, aerodynamic stability, and atmospheric turbulence, the simulations and ensuing evaluation are fairly advanced, however SpaceX engineers imagine they perceive the method—they really feel that Dragon will probably be up for the problem. And naturally, a Crew Dragon car carried out wonderful throughout reentry final March.

NASA and SpaceX have loads driving on this mission. By safely returning Hurley and Behken to Earth, the area company can transfer Dragon into operational standing, and start flying full enhances of 4 astronauts to the station at a time this fall. And SpaceX plans to reuse this specific capsule for an operational mission early in 2021.

The area company plans to supply steady protection of the mission by way of its Sunday afternoon splashdown:

Demo-2 mission returns to Earth.

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