Crew Dragon Undocks Saturday from ISS for Historic Splashdown Sunday with 1st NASA Astronauts: Watch Live

The SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft, carrying NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley, moments after undocking from the International Space Station at 7:35 p.m. ET on Aug. 1, 2020 for splashdown off Pensacola, FL on Aug. 2.  Screenshot Credit: NASA TV/Space UpClose

For SpaceUpClose.com & RocketSTEM

CAPE CANAVERAL, FL – After 64 days in space on the history-making first human spaceflight launch to space from US soil in nine years  the two-man veteran crew of NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley undocked from the International Space Station (ISS) as planned this evening Saturday, Aug. 1 inside their SpaceX Demo-2 Crew Dragon Endeavour test vehicle and return to Earth tomorrow afternoon Sunday Aug. 2 for the 1st splashdown of Americans from space in 45 years.

Officials decided to retarget the primary splashdown zone to the coast of Pensacola in the Gulf of Mexico and Florida’s West Coast and away from Florida’s eastern coastline because of the impending approach of Hurricane Isaias off the US East Coast.  Initially NASA and SpaceX targeting an ocean landing zone from stretching from Cape Canaveral to Jacksonville to Florida’s West Coast in the Gulf of Mexico.

The critical Crew Dragon truck separation and deorbit burns are slated for 1:51 and 1:56 p.m. ET (1751 and 1756 GMT)  Aug. 2 respectively to start the fiery reentry and return to Earth less than an hour later – culminating in splashdown.

Splashdown of Crew Dragon “Endeavour” spacecraft in the Gulf of Mexico is targeted at 2:48 p.m. EDT (1848 GMT) Sunday afternoon Aug. 2.

Watch live on NASA TV and the agency’s website for live all day coverage of the 2:48 p.m. (1848 GMT) splashdown Aug. 2.

The secondary splashdown zone is near Panama City with Go Navigator as the recovery vessel to retrieve the SpaceX Crew Dragon Endeavour capsule and astronauts Benhken and Hurley from the sea waters.

This map shows the SpaceX Crew Dragon’s seven landing zones for Demo-2. Credit: NASA

NASA TV provided live and continuous coverage of the entire undocking campaign Saturday afternoon and evening

Behnken and Hurley boarded Dragon Saturday afternoon after a farewell ceremony with the entire 5 man crew of Russians and Americans.

Expedition 63 crewmembers aboard the International Space Station on Saturday, Aug. 1, 2020. In front (from left) are, NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley. In back (from left) are, Roscosmos cosmonaut and Flight Engineer, Ivan Vagner, Commander Chris Cassidy, and Roscosmos cosmonaut and Flight Engineer, Anatoly Ivanishin. Screenshot Credit: NASA TV/Space UpClose

Then they and the Expedition 63  crewmates remaining on board led by Commander Chris Cassidy of NASA closed the hatches between the two ships from both sides.

After donning their pressure suits, conducting  leaks checks and confirming the health of the spacecraft the NASA/SpaceX team gave the “GO” to proceed with undocking and initiated commands at 7:30 p.m. EDT (2330 GMT) to open the set of 12 bolts holding the ships firmly together on the docking mechanism and release Crew Dragon for physical separation from the Harmony module where it spent the past two months attached.

“We are GO to proceed with undocking!:” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine tweeted.

https://twitter.com/JimBridenstine/status/1289702960704806912

“We are ‘GO’ for undocking of the @SpaceX Dragon Endeavour from @Space_Station. Our #LaunchAmerica crew aboard the spacecraft confirms their visors are down, and they are ready for departure,” NASA tweeted.

Finally Crew Dragon Endeavour fired thrusters and undocked at  7:35 p.m. EDT (2335 GMT) and gracefully and gently pulled away from the orbiting research complex.

“Separation confirmed. Dragon performing 4 departure burns to move away from the @Space_Station,””SpaceX confirmed

Altogether Crew Dragon performed 4 separation burns to undock and depart the station for the trip home.

Look back view to the International Space Station from SpaceX Crew Dragon Endeavour after undocking at 7:35 p.m. ET on Aug. 1, 2020 for splashdown off Pensacola, FL on Aug. 2. Screenshot Credit: NASA TV/Space UpClose

Here’s the live view inside Crew Dragon as ISS undocking took place.

“The view from inside the @SpaceX Dragon Endeavour, as @AstroBehnken & @Astro_Doug monitor their departure from @Space_Station:” reported NASA. 

Here photos of the departure burn from NASA’s Chris Cassidy

“This photo captured one of thrusters burning seconds after the hooks were released and physical separation from the @Space_Station. It has been a pleasure and honor to serve on the ISS with @AstroBehnken & @Astro_Doug. Safe return to earth my friends! #LaunchAmerica #LandAmerica,”: tweeted Chris Cassidy. 

And Hurley expressed his thanks to Cassidy and the two Russian Crewmates Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner. They remain aboard until October.

“It was an honor and privilege to be part of Expedition 63. Thanks to @Astro_SEAL, Anatoly, & @ivan_mks63 for making our stay on @Space_Station an incredible experience. Now it’s time to finish our DM-2 test flight in order to pave the way for future Dragon crews. Go Endeavour!” Hurley tweeted.

 

‘Two very small engine burns separated Crew Dragon from the station, and the spacecraft is slowly maneuvering away from the orbital laboratory into an orbital track that will return the astronaut crew and its cargo safely to Earth,” said NASA.

Distant view of the SpaceX Crew Dragon Endeavour after undocking at 7:35 p.m. ET on Aug. 1, 2020 from the ISS for planned splashdown off Pensacola, FL on Aug. 2. Screenshot Credit: NASA TV/Space UpClose

“Once flying free, Dragon Endeavour will autonomously execute four departure burns to move the spaceship away from the space station and begin the flight home.”

The four departure burns were conducted at 7:35, 7:40, 8:27 and 9:14 p.m. ET respectively

Distant view of the SpaceX Crew Dragon Endeavour with nose cone open – after undocking at 7:35 p.m. ET on Aug. 1, 2020 from the ISS for planned splashdown off Pensacola, FL on Aug. 2. Screenshot Credit: NASA TV/Space UpClose

“Astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley, traveling aboard the spacecraft they named “Endeavour,” will spend one more night in space before beginning their journey back to Earth on Sunday in the first return of a commercially built and operated American spacecraft carrying astronauts from the space station.”

With Endeavour on the path home, the astronauts were able to sleep for some six to eight hours

“While they’re asleep, a six-minute departure phasing burn at 1:48 a.m. Sunday, Aug. 2 will set the Dragon Endeavour on the proper orbital path to a planned splashdown in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Pensacola, Florida.”

 

Here’s the NASA timeline for return activities (all times Eastern):

  • 1:51 p.m. – Crew Dragon performs claw separation. The claw is located on Crew Dragon’s trunk, connecting thermal control, power, and avionics system components located on the trunk to the capsule.
  • 1:51 p.m. – Trunk separation
  • 1:56 p.m. – Deorbit burn begins
  • 2:08 p.m. – Deorbit burn complete
  • 2:11 p.m. – Nosecone deploys
  • 2:32 p.m. – Crew Dragon maneuvers to attitude for re-entry
  • 2:44 p.m. – Drogue parachutes deploy at about 18,000 feet in altitude while Crew Dragon is moving approximately 350 miles per hour.
  • 2:45 p.m. – Main parachutes deploy at about 6,000 feet in altitude while Crew Dragon is moving approximately 119 miles per hour.
  • 2:48 p.m. – Splashdown
Diagram of the Crew Dragon spacecraft. Credit: SpaceX

A crew of about 44 personnel is abroad GO Navigator including medical personal – to retrieve and recover the capsule and astronauts on board with a hydraulic lift.

Behnken and Hurley will depart with roughly an hour by helicopter for medical check and make there way back by jet to Mission Control at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.

The gumdrop shaped Crew Dragon measures around 13 feet (4 meters) in diameter and 16 feet (5 meters) tall.

Go Navigator SpaceX recovery ship docked at Port Canaveral Florida with a test version of Crew Dragon aboard, just days prior to departing for recovery zone for Demo-2 mission splashdown off coast of Pensacola slated for Aug. 2, 2020. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com

During their 63 days aboard station, Behnken and Hurley conducted over 120 hours of research time to support the orbiting laboratory’s investigations, participated in public engagement events.

Furthermore Behnken and Cassidy carried out four critical spacewalks to install new Li-ion batteries in the station’s power grid and swap out older ones to upgrade power systems and other station hardware.

The Demo-2 mission also marks the first piloted return of a SpaceX Crew Dragon – a flight of many historic firsts already including the first launch of US astronauts from US soil on US rockets in 9 years

The NASA and SpaceX teams have seven splashdown zones to choose from on the East and Gulf coasts of Florida.

If all goes as planned Behnken and Hurley will have spent 64 days in orbit or just over two months.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine speaks to the media at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center backdropped by full scale Mars 2020 rover replica and iconic VAB on July 30, 2020. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com

 The last US splashdown occurred almost exactly 45 years ago on the historic Apollo Soyuz test flight on July 24, 1975 – the first international joint mission and handshake in space between the US and the then Soviet Union that absolutely paved the way to international cooperation culminating in the International Space Station.

 

The historic Demo-2 test flight mission began with the beautiful and flawless blastoff of the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft carrying NASA veteran astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley lifting off  at 3:22 p.m. EDT Saturday, May 30, on the company’s Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida bound for the International Space Station (ISS) – to the cheers of tens of thousands of spectators gathered from around America and three days after dismal weather forced a scrub of the first attempt on Wednesday.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft is launched from Launch Complex 39A on NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 mission to the International Space Station with NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley onboard, Saturday, May 30, 2020 at 3:22 p.m. EDT, at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The Demo-2 mission is the first launch with astronauts of the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket to the International Space Station as part of the agency’s Commercial Crew Program. As seen from the Indian River lagoon, Titusville, FL. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com

Behnken and Hurley flying aboard the commercial SpaceX Crew Dragon Endeavour  safely docked at the ISS Sunday morning, May 31, just 19 hours after the first human launch from US soil for the first time in nine years on a history making and flawless blastoff from the Florida Space Coast.

The next crewed launch of a SpaceX Crew Dragon on the 1st crew rotation mission to the ISS  is planned for NET late September 2020 on the Crew-1 flight.

That’s if all goes well after teams thoroughly check all systems aboard Endeavour to ensure its safety and operability.

NASA needs a minimum of 6 weeks to certify the SpaceX Crew Dragon vehicles are safe and ready for future human spaceflight missions.

A crew of 4 astronauts from NASA and Japan have already been announced and are in training for the Crew-1 mission launching from the Kennedy Space Center pad 39A.

Watch Ken’s continuing reports about Commercial Crew and Artemis and onsite for live reporting of upcoming and recent SpaceX and ULA launches including Demo-2, Starlink, X-37B, Solar Orbiter, Mars 2020 and more at the Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.

Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Earth and Planetary science and human spaceflight news: www.kenkremer.com –www.spaceupclose.com – twitter @ken_kremer – email: ken at kenkremer.com

Dr. Kremer is a research scientist and journalist based in the KSC area, active in outreach and interviewed regularly on TV and radio about space topics.
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Ken’s photos are for sale and he is available for lectures and outreach events

NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley will fly on board Demo-2 SpaceX Crew Dragon to the ISS from historic Launch Complex 39A from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida – meeting the media after IFA launch. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com

 

SpaceX Crew Dragon Demo-2 mission patch. Credit: NASA/SpaceX

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Ken Kremer

Ken Kremer

Watch for Ken’s continuing onsite coverage of NASA, SpaceX, ULA, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and more space and mission reports direct from Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida and Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Stay tuned here for Ken's continuing Earth and Planetary science and human spaceflight news. Dr. Kremer is a research scientist and journalist based in the KSC area, active in outreach and interviewed regularly on TV and radio about space topics. Ken’s photos are for sale and he is available for lectures and outreach events.

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