SpaceX is set to return its first NASA astronaut to Earth, but a possible tropical cyclone in the Atlantic may be delayed.
The SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft, called Endeavor, is scheduled to detach from the Florida coast on Sunday afternoon (Aug. 2). Its crew, NASA’s Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley, are taking a historic two-month test flight, the first orbital trip by astronauts on a commercial spacecraft. Their splatter will also mark the first landing by American astronauts since the Apollo-Soyuz mission in July 1955.
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstein told Kennedy on Wednesday (July 29), “Everyone ‘goes’ to return, and we can’t wait for Bob Bacon and Doug Hurley to return to Earth, but of course We have some weather pending. ” Space Center in Florida. “We look forward to seeing what is possible.
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“Weather pending” is from a hurricane system referenced by Bridenstein The National Hurricane Center (NHC) has dubbed a potential tropical cyclone nine. NHC’s current forecast puts Florida’s square system ahead of SpaceX’s Spacedown Target Time on Sunday at 2:48 pm EDT (1948 GMT).
“We are going to watch the weather very carefully,” said Steve Stich, manager of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. “We have a series [landing] Sites and many more days in the future, so we’ll see this tropical storm … we’ll take it day by day. “
Currently, Behnken and Hurley are due to undock from the space station on Saturday evening at 7:35 EDT (2335 GMT) and are ready to go home. If all goes well, Endeavor capsules will fire their engines to leave class for the afternoon vacation on Sunday.
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SpaceX has seven potential splashdown sites around the panhandle of Florida to choose from. They include drop zones offshore from Cape Canaveral, Daytona and Jacksonville at the former cost of Florida, and Panama City, Pensacola, Thalassi and Tampa on the west coast. Wave height, wind speed, lightning, rain conditions and other factors will all determine which splashdown sites SpaceX will pick up.
“We are actually looking for two sites before undocking,” Stitch said, noting that the agency would hold up to an hour before the final decision, or even call for a departure if needed. “The beauty of this vehicle is [that] We can dock at the space station. “
Bacon and Hurley launched on May 30 at the International Space Station on SpaceX’s Demo-2 mission. The mission is a two-month shakedown cruise to test whether SpaceX is ready to fly operational astronaut missions to NASA. SpaceX has run unmanned cargo missions to NASA for years and has two companies (one of Boeing being the other) with a multi-billion dollar contract to fly astronauts to the station.
NASA and SpaceX officials said the Crew Dragon spacecraft performed brilliantly in orbit. Demo-2 astronauts have tested their ability to hold up to four astronauts at a time, with only the major unknown ahead: Splatter.
“It’s a really big thing,” said Benji Reid, director of crew management for SpaceX. “This is very important, and it is part of that sacred honor we have to make sure that we bring Bob and Doug back to their families, their children back home and make sure they are safe.”
If bad weather seems like a Sunday flick may be delayed for Crew Drew, NASA and SpaceX will postpone the weekend before Monday (Aug. 3), with the possibility of splashing a day later.
“So we have to evaluate the weather every day and just see how things unfold,” Stitch said. “We have a lot of opportunities in August and we are in no hurry to come home.”
Even as SpaceX prepares Bacon and Hurley to return to Earth, the company is already gearing up for its first operational mission, called Crew-1. Reid said the spacecraft for the mission is nearly complete at the company’s headquarters and in Hawthorne, California, and will soon be shipped to Cape Canaveral.
Crew-1 astronauts – NASA’s Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover and Shannon Walker, and Japan’s Soichi Noguchi – are with the vehicle this week, Reid said. That mission is currently scheduled to launch in late September.
Yesterday, NASA announced the launch of four astronauts in early 2021 on the Crux-2, SpaceX’s second operational flight. The mission will launch both NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrat and Megan McArthur; Akihiko Hoshide of Japan and Thomas Pesk of the European Space Agency. McArthur is married to Behnken, and will launch her Crew-2 mission on the same Dragon Ship Endeavor as her husband, NASA, and SpaceX said.
Meanwhile, as SpaceX prepares the Demo-2 astronauts to return to Earth, NASA is counting on for another milestone event: a launch for Mars.
NASA’s Mars 2020 Fortitude Rover is set to launch towards the red planet tomorrow (July 30). The mission, which will collect samples of Mars for its final return to Earth, deploy a helicopter and look for signs of ancient life, will launch a joint launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Liftoff is set for 7:50 am. EDT (1150 GMT).
Editor’s note: You can watch NASA’s Mars Rover Perseverance launch here, courtesy of NASA TV. The webcast will begin at 7 am EDT (1100 GMT). The undocking and splash down of SpaceX’s Demo-2 crew will also be webcast live.
Email Tariq Malik at [email protected] or follow him @tariqjmalik. Follow us on @Spacedotcom, Facebook and Instagram.