SpaceX Crew Dragon Set For Splashdown In Atlantic Ocean

Demo-1 splashdown

We have splashdown! The Crew Dragon undocked from the space station at 2:32am EST this morning and started the journey back to Earth.

- 8:45 a.m. ET: Splashdown in the Atlantic, some 200 miles off the Florida coast.

The SpaceX Crew Dragon is part of NASA's Commercial Crew Program, in which it collaborates with private companies to develop new options for human space travel - and end US reliance on Russian space vehicles to get astronauts into orbit. The capsule is SpaceX's first that is created to carry humans.

"Our NASA and SpaceX teams worked seamlessly not only in the lead-up to the flight but in how we managed the flight", said Steve Stich, deputy manager of NASA's Commercial Crew Program.

NASA and SpaceX reported the deorbit burn was nominal, and Dragon closed its nosecone to prepare for reentry. Soon, if all goes as planned, SpaceX and Boeing will compete for those contracts and launch the manned-missions from USA soil.

Significant delays hampered the launch of the Crew Dragon but on March 2 it finally achieved lift-off from storied Launch Pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center. The commercial crew programme "is one step closer to launching American astronauts on American rockets from American soil", he tweeted.

America's Boeing has plans to launch its Starliner capsule without a crew as early as next month, and possibly with astronauts in August.

Demo-1 undocking

But the bottom of the Crew Dragon is slightly asymmetrical, its flawless contours rendered imperfect by the four pairs of engines built around the base of the ship. NASA retired the Space Shuttle in 2011. Following Saturday's launch, Jim Bridenstine, the NASA administrator, said that he was "100 percent confident" crew would launch this year. Success will also mean that "Earthy", a plush anthropomorphic doll of our planet, will be coming home from the space station.

Already planned upgrades, additional qualification testing, and an in-flight abort test will occur before NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley will climb aboard for Demo-2, the crewed flight test to the International Space Station that is necessary to certify Crew Dragon for routine operational missions.

Should that mission go well, the next flight of the Crew Dragon will include humans.

During reentry, Crew Dragon is subjected to absolutely incredible stresses. SpaceX and NASA will now examine the capsule and the data collected by the craft's only passenger, a sensor-packed dummy called Ripley.

In the past few years, SpaceX has emerged as a preeminent builder of rockets and orbital spacecraft. Now, commercial providers - specifically SpaceX and Boeing - are set to fulfill the role, while offering considerably cheaper seats ($58 million per seat rather than $81 million).

The spaceship carried 180kg of supplies and test equipment, including a crash test dummy named Ripley, after Sigourney Weaver's character in Alien.

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