History is created when SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule successfully splashed down in the Atlantic Ocean after spending nearly a week at the International Space Station(ISS). The plunge into the water brings the spacecraft’s first test flight to a successful end. This Successful test improves the chances of SpaceX capsule surviving the harrowing journey to space and back. This also means that Crew Dragon capsules may carry people in the coming years.
The splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean marks the last major milestone of SpaceX’s Demonstration-1 or DM-1 mission. This was a critical test flight required for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. Now, this agency aims to send NASA astronauts to space on private US spacecraft. Elon Musk’s SpaceX has been developing the Crew Dragon as a new passenger vehicle for this type of program. In order to check the safety of the Astronauts, NASA wanted to see the Crew Dragon prove itself in space without anyone on board. So Demonstration-1/DM-1 was created as a way for NASA to evaluate the capsule’s performance and figure out what needs changing before astronauts can board this Capsule on their journey to Mars.
There were so much anticipation and Nerve Wrecking moments due to numerous delays but DM-1 finally got off the ground in the month of March sparking a whirlwind trip to orbit. The flight began on Saturday when the capsule lifted off from Kennedy Space Center in US State of Florida on top of one of the SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rockets at 2:49 AM ET. Just after a day later, the Crew Dragon met up with the ISS and docked automatically to a port on the outside of the station. This type of docking maneuver was something that SpaceX had never performed before this weekend.
There were some major hurdles like at beginning of the launch and at the time of docking for SpaceX but perhaps the biggest challenge of the mission occurred for the Spacecraft when the Crew Dragon returned to Earth. SpaceX needed to demonstrate and make sure that the capsule can pass through our planet’s atmosphere and make it back to the ocean in one piece while protecting any cargo inside.
Friday At 2:32 AM ET, Crew Dragon undocked from the International space station and distanced itself from the lab, in preparation for its descent back to Earth. The vehicle jettisoned its trunk, a cylindrical structure attached to the base of the capsule that provides power and temperature control during the flight Crew Dragon did all this just before getting plunged into the Earth’s atmosphere. The Capsule then ignited its onboard thrusters for about 15 minutes in order to take the capsule out of the orbit and thus initiated the final fall towards Planet Earth.
The Crew Dragon then continues its fall towards the ground and reaching speeds faster than the speed of sound while experiencing intense heating. There were serious concerns that this portion of the return may cause the vehicle to roll due to the capsule’s asymmetrical shape. But this mission was a success and the Crew Dragon made it through this part of the descent. The Crew Dragon than deployed its four main parachutes to slow itself down and then touch down gently in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Florida. A SpaceX recovery boat known as Go Searcher will now rendezvous with the capsule and hoist it out of the ocean in order to bring it back to shore.
Although the Capsule didn’t have any living crew members on board, it did carry a smart dummy named Ripley. This Smart Dummy Ripley was equipped with different types of sensors to measure the forces and accelerations the human body may experience while riding inside the Crew Dragon. The capsule was not empty it also carried about 330 pounds of cargo and research from the International Space Station(ISS).
Steve Stich, deputy manager of flight development and operations for Commercial Crew said that “The vehicle really did better than we expected,” on NASA’s live stream following the splashdown.
In the coming months, SpaceX will perform another test flight to try out the Crew Dragon’s emergency abort system in case of a system failure. This system will help save the astronauts crew when the rocket carrying the capsule experiences a major failure.
Space X Will test out another process In April to check the Engines embedded in the outside of the vehicle that can ignite during the ascent to space, carrying the capsule away from a disintegrating rocket. In order to be More Cost efficient Space X will use the same Crew Dragon capsule that just finished this week’s mission.
This Success Are an indication that in the near future Space X will put people on the Crew Dragon. They even selected two NASA astronauts, Bob Behnken, and Doug Hurley to fly on the capsule for the first time, during the vehicle’s final test flight. This Manned mission is slated to occur in July, but there is no surety that this date will hold. However, NASA representatives are confident that this manned mission flight could occur this year.
Also In This Smoke Chamber
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- Falcon 9 flies Crew Dragon to space successfully, ready to lock to the ISS
- SpaceX all set to launch its new Crew Dragon Capsule