Just over 45 years since the last American astronaut splashed into the ocean, NASA and its partner SpaceX landed the astronauts in the sea again on August 2nd.
The agency announced last week that the SpaceX Demo-2 commercial crew mission, carried out by NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken, will return to Earth, flying in ocean near Florida at one of seven landing sites. The mission is expected to be unloaded at 2:42 pm EDT (1842 GMT), provided that weather and technical systems cooperate, NASA said in a statement.
Coverage will be streaming on NASA Television, with astronauts landing in one of these locations: off the coasts of Pensacola, Tampa, Tallahassee, Panama City, Cape Canaveral, Daytona or Jacksonville, she said NASA in the same statement. The return time for astronauts will take between six and 30 hours, depending on the exact cut and spread areas selected. For now, NASA and SpaceX expect to drop a Crew Dragon from the International Space Station at 7:34 pm EDT (2334 GMT) on August 1st.
Related: The historic flight of SpaceX’s Demo-2 Crew Dragon test astronaut
The Demo-2splashdown will be a historic moment. For one thing, it will be a moment of “going back to the future”: the last time astronauts landed on the ocean was on July 24, 1975 to be completed. Apollo-Soyuz Test Project between the United States and the Soviet Union. The Demo-2 landing will also complete the first commercial crew testing mission and prepare NASA for operational flights with SpaceX; the next launch is set up September with a full crew of four astronauts.
The deployment will usher in a new era for NASA, which finally (after more than a decade of work) has one version of a replacement crew spacecraft ready to launch American astronauts to the International Space Station. SpaceX and another partner, Boeing, are expected to largely replace NASA’s Soyuz spacecraft astronauts who have been in use for years since the agency’s space shuttle program shut down. in 2011 to access the space station.
We will not know the exact location for the flight until approximately two days before landing at NASA added to the factsheet, and the agreed area will be confirmed at 6 hours and again at 2.5 hours before capture. If conditions are “no go” or marginal at the landing site, water removal is likely to go ahead anyway. NASA and SpaceX will continue to monitor as astronauts move closer to Earth, as weather conditions can change quickly and instead preserve the option to fly down if possible.
If the conditions do not ultimately lead to landing, the crew has the option to “make up” the landing for 24 to 48 hours and remain in the space on board the Ddragon Endeavor Crew before making the landing. second attempt.
“Splashdown locations are selected using defined priorities, starting with the selection of the station’s departure date and time with the maximum number of return opportunities in geographically different locations to protect for weather changes, “the agency said mentioned in the factsheet. “Teams also prioritize locations that require the shortest amount of time between lashing and scattering based on orbital mechanics, and scattering opportunities that occur in the hours of sunshine.”
Recovery parameters depend on factors such as wind speed (no more than 15 feet, or 4.5 meters, per second), inclination of ocean waves of no more than seven degrees, rain, lightning (which cannot occur 10 miles, or 16 km), the availability of recovery helicopters that can pick up astronauts (helicopters are tested before deployment), pitch and roll of the vessel (which shall not be greater than four degrees), the visible limit (not less than 500 feet, or 152 meters) and the general visibility (not less than half a mile, or 0.8 km, assuming solar operations.)
Here are the key points to expect for the spread, according to NASA:
Once the Crew Dragon is separated from the space station, it will complete two small engine burns to safely get away from the station. Next, Endeavor will perform four longer take-offs that stop it on its way to Earth. A few hours later, assuming the splashdown conditions looked good, Endeavor completed six minutes of “gradual takeoff burn” to put it in the right orbit for its spill area.
Next, Endeavru will leave his trunk, holding the spacecraft’s solar matrix and other equipment, to clear his heat shield for re-entry. The effort will then perform a “deorbit burn” and begin its herd into the Earth’s atmosphere, hitting the air at a speed of 17,500 mph (28,000 km / h). The loss of communication lasts six minutes as the heat shield reaches temperatures of 3,500 degrees Fahrenheit (1,900 degrees Celsius).
Once the worst re-enters, Endeavor will launch two drug parachutes at 18,000 feet (about 5.5 km) in altitude, reducing its drop from 350 mph to 119 mph (560 km / h to 191 km / h). ). Three major parachutes will start using when the Endeavor is about 1.8 km (6,000 feet) above the ground.
Next will be a splashdown. The crew is picked up by one of the two recovery ships, either the Go Searcher or the Go Navigator. Each ship will have more than 40 personnel from NASA and SpaceX on board, including personnel such as water recovery experts, medical professionals, spacecraft engineers and other people specialized in recovery operations.
The main ship for recovery will send two smaller ships along with SpaceX personnel on board. One boat will ensure that the capsule does not leak (NASA Mercury Liberty Bell 7 spacecraft accidentally dropped in 1961 and was only recovered in 1999.) The boat will also ensure that there is no propellant vapor that could put the crew in danger. The second boat will retrieve the parachutes that must, at this point, climb freely from Endeavor into the water.
Once all of this is done, the main recovery ship will approach Endeavor and launch the spacecraft (with the crew still inside) onto the main deck. Behnken and Hurley will be assisted by medical professionals immediately upon arrival, both for routine medical checks and for their spacecraft exit. If all goes to plan, the crew must be back on the recovery vessel within 45 to 60 minutes of a splashdown.
After finishing their medical checks, Hurley and Behnken will be brought ashore – either by helicopter (for six of the seven recovery areas) or by a recovery ship (if the crew lands near Cape Canaveral.) It will take between 10 minutes and 80 minutes to get back on dry land, and then the crew will board a NASA plane for their return to their home base in Houston. It will take at least a few weeks to recover from being in space, which is typical of returning crews staying in microgravity for months at a time.
The effort will take a separate path, ending in Florida for SpaceX inspection and processing. Spacecraft certification for operational missions takes about six weeks, and after the next mission (Crew 1) launch will be authorized in September.
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