NASA SpaceX Crew Dragon Mission- Explained
NASA astronauts Behnken and Hurley completed SpaceX Demo-2 test flight mission after a successful splashdown in the Gulf of Mexico.
The historic return of the NASA astronauts, Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley, marks the successful completion of the NASA’s first Commercial Crew test flight in space.
The astronauts were launched from the American soil in a commercially built and operated American crew spacecraft to low-earth orbit for the first time since the conclusion of the Space Shuttle Program in 2011.
The SpaceX’s Dragon Crew spacecraft lifted off on 30th May 2020 on the NASA’s Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida. The spacecraft carrying the two NASA astronauts splashed down at the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Pensacola, Florida on 2nd August 2020, after 62 days.
NASA’s Commercial Crew Program
NASA’s Commercial Crew Program works with the U.S. aerospace industry companies to develop safe, reliable, and cost-effective crew transportation systems that will carry astronauts on American rockets and spacecraft from American soil to the International Space Station (ISS) and back. Space X & Boeing were the first private companies to partner with NASA in 2014 to transport crew to the ISS for space exploration.
SpaceX Crew Dragon Spacecraft
The SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft is a seven-seat crewed spacecraft, designed to carry both crew and payload on round trips to the International Space Station for NASA. The capsule-shaped spacecraft was launched in space on a Falcon 9 rocket, SpaceX’s workhorse booster.
NASA-SpaceX Demo-2 Mission
NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 mission is an end-to-end test flight to validate the SpaceX crew transportation system, including launch, in-orbit, docking and landing operations. This is SpaceX’s second spaceflight and the first flight with astronauts aboard, which will facilitate the way for commercial collaborations under the NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.
The Demo-2 mission carried NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Douglas Hurley. Behnken was the mission’s joint operations commander while Hurley was Crew Dragon spacecraft commander.
The two astronauts participated in several scientific experiments, spacewalks and public engagement events during their 62 days aboard station. They spent 64 days in orbit, completed 1,024 orbits around Earth and travelled 27,147,284 statute miles.
The Crew Dragon returned to Earth after a successful splashdown in the Gulf of Mexico and was immediately retrieved by the SpaceX recovery ship after landing.
This Demo-2 test mission will provide all the essential data about the performance of the Falcon 9 rocket, Crew Dragon spacecraft and ground systems operations. The data will inform NASA’s certification of the SpaceX crew transportation system for regular flights carrying astronauts to and from the International space station. SpaceX is readying the hardware for the first rotational mission, which is scheduled to occur following NASA certification for the mission.
The first operational flight of Crew Dragon will be carried out by four astronauts, including two NASA astronauts, as well as one from the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and one from the European Space Agency (ESA).