Video of SpaceX's Crew Dragon capsule returning to Earth is pretty stunning

09 March, 2019, 05:38 | Author: Chad Warren
  • This still image taken from NASA TV shows SpaceX's Crew Dragon spacecraft safely aboard the company's recovery vessel following splashdown

Boeing, meanwhile, is scheduled to send an uncrewed Starliner to the space station no earlier than next month, atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The biggest difference is at the base of the vehicle - specifically, the heat shield that protects the ship from the more than 3,000º F fires of reentry. The splashdown is the last act in what has been a successful first flight for the Crew Dragon. These are its escape rockets, which would blast the spacecraft and the crew away from the Falcon 9 rocket carrying them to orbit if the rocket was becoming unstable or threatening to explode during a launch.

Unlike past programs that NASA controlled from top to bottom, the new spacecraft were intended from the start to be commercially developed, giving the winning companies ownership and much more control over the finished product along with the freedom to sell seats to non-NASA customers. The asymmetry in the Dragon that results, however, complicates the aerodynamics of reentry, introducing the possibility that the ship could begin rolling uncontrollably while screaming down to Earth.

The timeline for the first flight of Boeing's Starliner is not as clear.

Boeing's Starliner crew capsule is poised to launch its maiden unmanned mission in April ahead of an August test flight carrying USA astronauts Michael Fincke, Chris Ferguson and Nicole Mann. After Musk smoked marijuana during a podcast appearance, NASA announced it was conducting a safety review of SpaceX and Boeing.

"I think our plan is to have him teach us", Behnken said, referring to Li'l Earthie. That reentry appeared to go as planned, with the spacecraft first deploying two drogue parachutes followed by its four main ones.

Kelly says ex-wife destroyed his name, income
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If deemed a complete success, the mission would give Nasa increased confidence in one of its prime contractors and propel the space agency a step closer to restoring human spaceflight from USA soil. "It has to be 100 percent foolproof". Then it's time to look at the data. In recent years, NASA and SpaceX have conducted 18 airplane drop tests of dummy Dragons with functioning chutes, and grew increasingly convinced of the system's reliability. "And then we can use the tax-payer resources that are bestowed upon us to do exploration, to go further, to go back to the Moon sustainably", said Nasa chief Jim Bridenstine.

Friday morning's splashdown was the final hurdle of SpaceX's six-day test flight. The craft's splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean is expected around 8:45 a.m. ET, after it re-enters Earth's atmosphere. Land in the Atlantic and you just scoop it up and bring it in to shore. It's the ocean in which America's first astronauts - Al Shepard and Gus Grissom - plopped down after their seventeen-minute sub-orbital missions in 1961.

But like the launch, the docking went off without a hitch, and soon the three astronauts on board the station - Nasa's Anne McClain, Oleg Kononenko of Russian Federation, and Canada's David Saint-Jacques - were able to check out the first commercial space vehicle designed for human space flight ever to dock with the station.

The Atlantic, always patient, has been waiting.

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