Historic test flight for Space X Crew Dragon

Rodiano Bonacci
Marzo 11, 2019

While the Little Earth stayed with the astronauts on the ISS, the Crew Dragon had to go - carrying around 330lbs worth of experiment results and gear, Space X's Crew Dragon capsule got ready to return back to Earth for the final stage of its mission.

Dragon also marks a return to a "vintage" format: it is the first United States capsule since the pioneering Apollo program.

Last Saturday, SpaceX launched its new Crew Dragon spaceship designed for NASA astronauts toward the International Space Station (ISS), where the vehicle docked on March 3. SpaceX retrieved the spacecraft from the Atlantic Ocean and is transporting it back to port on the company's recovery ship.

Launched March 2 from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, Dragon docked at ISS the following day before successfully undocking Friday some 250 miles over Sudan.

"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.

Demonstration Mission-1 (Demo-1) was an uncrewed flight test created to demonstrate a new commercial capability developed under NASA's Commercial Crew Program. The Dragon linked with the station autonomously, being the first American spacecraft ever to do so in this manner.

The U.S. relies on Russian Federation to launch astronauts to the space station, at a cost of about $80 million per ticket.

At 8:35 a.m EST on Friday, the Crew Dragon deployed its parachute and landed into the Atlantic Ocean, just off the coast of Florida.

The Dragon is the first American commercially built-and-operated crew spacecraft in eight years, since the end of the space shuttle program.

The mission carried 400 pounds (180 kg) of test equipment to the space station, including a dummy named Ripley outfitted with sensors around its head, neck, and spine to monitor how a flight would feel for a human.

The re-entry into Earth's atmosphere tested the vehicle's heat shield for the first time, and Musk had previously said that the phase was "probably my biggest concern". Assuming all went well, an abort test of the Crew Dragon will happen in June, followed by the Demo-2 test, in which the capsule will deliver two NASA astronauts, Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley, to the ISS.

"For the first time, we've gotten to see an end-to-end test, and so now we've brought together the people, the hardware and all the processes and procedures, and we've gotten to see how they all work together, and that's very important as we move toward putting people onboard" NASA astronaut Mike Hopkins has said.

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