Keeping tabs on potential tropical storm, NASA is pushing ahead with plans to bring two astronauts and theirback to Earth Sunday with a splashdown in the Gulf of Mexico. This will be the first re-entry of a Crew Dragon spacecraft and the first landing in NASA’s oceans in 45 years.
“The review of preparation for the return flight is complete and the NASA team and the SpaceX team, everyone is moving” back “,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine told reporters Wednesday. ”We can’t wait to get itback to Earth.
“But of course, we have some outstanding weather. Just like when we started, we had some challenges with the weather, we could have it again. But the first opportunity remains August 2, and we look forward to we will see if that will be the realm of what is possible. “
Aheading to Florida and the eastern Gulf of Mexico is expected to pass through the area over the weekend. The crew capsule used for this first pilot test flight is not allowed to be unloaded in winds higher than about 10 mph, in high waves or in rain and lightning in the area.
For Sunday’s crash, Hurley and Behnken cut off from the space station’s forward port at around 7.30pm EDT, setting up a splashdown near Panama City, Florida, at around 2.42pm the next day to carry out a 64-day mission.
A SpaceX recovery ship, support crew and flight surgeons will be on hand to pull the capsule aboard and help the astronauts emerge as they begin rearranging to gravity. After initial medical checks, Hurley and Behnken will be held to the ground by helicopter for a return flight to the Johnson Space Center in Houston aboard a NASA jet.
Steve Stich, manager of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, said mission managers evaluate the weather day after day and make a final decision on whether to proceed shortly before the planned pick-up on Saturday evening. Or earlier as predicted.
“We’re going to have to assess the weather every day and just see how things develop,” Stich said. “This is a trial flight, and we will take our time. We have a lot of opportunities here in August, and we’re not in a hurry to come home. We’ve got all the goals, really, for the mission.”
Hurley and Behnken wereOn top of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on May 30th. It was the first pilot orbital launch by NASA astronauts from American soil since the final space shuttle flight in 2011.
Stich said the capsule, designed, built and owned by SpaceX, has gone smoothly during its two months in space and engineers are eager to bring it back to Earth for a detailed post-flight inspection.
Meanwhile, SpaceX is putting the finishing touches on its second Crew Dragon spacecraft in Hawthorne, California, its factory in preparation for the company’s first operational flight, known as Crew 1, carrying four astronauts to Earth. the space station this fall.
The Crew Dragon that carried Hurley and Behnken into space will be refurbished, modified to handle tougher splashdown weather and launched in the second SpaceX crew rotation operational mission – Crew 2 – early next year.
“The importance of getting the vehicle back, that Bob and Doug return safely, is that we then go to assess the data on this flight, which sets us up for Crew 1 mission early in late September,” said Stich. “And we pass the data methodically to that flight and make sure we’re ready to start operational flights.”