The capsule built to carry humans returned home last week from a successful first flight
SpaceX launched the first Crew Dragon capsule to the International Space Station (ISS) on March 2 and the mission ended on March 8 when the capsule splashed down into the Atlantic. The flight, called Demo-1, was uncrewed, but since the mission was a success it’s next mission will be to carry astronauts to and from the orbiting lab for the first time this summer.
When the capsule splashed down in the Atlantic Ocean about 230 miles off the coast of Cape Canaveral in Florida after a six-hour flight from the space laboratory, a recovery ship called GO Searcher retrieved it from the water and successfully returned it to Port Canaveral. NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine stated:
“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. I want to once again congratulate the NASA and SpaceX teams on an incredible week. Our Commercial Crew Program is one step closer to launching American astronauts on American rockets from American soil. I am proud of the great work that has been done to get us to this point.”
The astronauts now on board the ISS, Anne McClain, David Saint-Jacques, and Oleg Kononenko, were able to see the SpaceX capsule in microgravity while it was docked at the station this week. Moreover, a final test on Crew Dragon’s emergency abort system is scheduled for June, and the first crewed mission is set for July, carrying American astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken. It will be a 14 day mission to the ISS called Demo-2. If it will also be successful, the Crew Dragon is planned to carry up to seven astronauts at a time back and forth to the ISS.
NASA astronaut Mike Hopkins who will crew SpaceX first operational mission to the space station following Demo-2 said: “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.”
SpaceX is known to have spaceflight ambitions beyond the ISS. It wants to develop a massive spaceship and rocket system, Starship and Super Heavy, that Elon Musk wants to use to colonize Mars and explore deep space with. He also stated that Starship could conduct short test flights this year and soon the prototype vehicle will mate with its engine. Benji Reed, Director of Crew Mission Management at SpaceX declared his excitement about the recent Crew Dragon success:
“I can’t believe how well the whole mission has gone. I think on every point, everything’s been nailed, all the way along – particularly this last piece. We were all very excited to see re-entry and parachute and drogue deploy and main deploy, splashdown – everything happened just perfectly, right on time the way we expected it to. It was beautiful.”