SpaceX sleeps through the night with Crew Dragon splashdown, Falcon 9 launch within 5 hours

SpaceX is looking to eliminate two major operations overnight.

Already early Friday, the company welcomed home four more International Space Station astronauts splashing down in their Crew Dragon off the coast of Florida, and less than five hours later will attempt to launch a Falcon 9 rocket during a Starlink mission from Kennedy Space Center. .

The first was the return of Crew-3 with NASA astronauts Thomas Marshburn, Kayla Barron and Raja Chari as well as German astronaut Matthias Maurer from the European Space Agency. The quartet boarded the Crew Dragon Endurance and undocked from the ISS at 1:20 a.m. Thursday and landed at 12:43 a.m. Friday.

“On behalf of the entire SpaceX team, welcome home,” Sarah Gillis of SpaceX Mission Control said after landing. “It was an absolute honor to support you on your Endurance mission crew and thank you for flying SpaceX.”

“We are happy to be back. Thank you for allowing us to take Endurance on a shakedown cruise,” Crew-3 Commander Chari said, noting that this is the first flight of the third of four Crew Dragons in the SpaceX fleet. “We look forward to launching many more Endurance flights in the future. It was a great race.

The capsule jettisoned its trunk to release its heat shield before its final deorbit burn just before midnight to line up its final course to land on its primary target near Tampa in the Gulf of Mexico.

Temperatures outside Endurance reached 3,500 degrees Fahrenheit while slowing from its 17,500 mph orbit to around 350 mph, with the crew experiencing a force of 3 to 5 G during the descent. With her four main parachutes deployed, Endurance slowed further to about 15 mph with a splash in calm seas.

The capsule was loaded onto the SpaceX recovery ship named Shannon at around 1:15 a.m., soon followed by the hatch opening and the foursome exiting the capsule.

“Only one complaint. These water bottles are super heavy,” Chari joked about returning to life in the middle of Earth’s gravity.

The three NASA astronauts will travel to Johnson Space Center later Friday while Maurer makes another long flight back to Europe.

Four hours and 59 minutes after Endurance landed, SpaceX scheduled a Starlink launch from KSC’s Launch Pad 39-A at 5:42 a.m., seeking to send 53 more of its internet satellites into orbit.

Space Launch Delta 45 Weather Squadron predicts better than 90% chance good starting conditions. A backup launch opportunity is available May 7 at 5:20 a.m. SpaceX will attempt to retrieve the first-stage booster used for a record 12th time on its A Shortfall of Gravitas droneship in the Atlantic Ocean.

The return of Crew-3 marks the third operation with human passengers in less than two weeks with the return of the first fully private mission to the ISS, Axiom Space AX-1on April 25 aboard the Crew Dragon Endeavour, the launch of Crew-4 to relieve Crew-3 on the ISS on the new Crew Dragon Freedom two days later on April 23 and now the return of Crew-3.

“I really want to personally thank SpaceX for just blowing your mind, doing such smooth operations and all these missions, very quiet launches, beautiful landings,” said NASA’s Kathryn Lueders, Associate Administrator of the Operations Mission Directorate. space after the landing of Crew-3. “It’s always a huge relief to see these drugs (parachutes) unfold and to see these four sectors unfold so beautifully.”

NASA Crew-4 astronauts Kjell Lindgren, Robert Hines and Jessica Watkins, along with ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti and Roscosmos cosmonauts Oleg Artemyev remained on the station. Sergei Korsakov and Oleg Artemyev.

Marshburn, the only non-Crew-3 recruit to have flown into space twice before, commanded Expedition 67 on the station, and he handed over the reins to Artemyev in a ceremony Wednesday that brought together the 11 station crew members.

“I think the lasting legacy of the space station will most likely be international cooperation and a place of peace, so Oleg, you are a cosmonaut, a very strong and experienced astronaut. I know that we will leave the space station between good hands with you,” Marshburn said as he handed an actual key to Artemyev while also speaking in Russian to his spacemate.

“I accept the order,” Artemyev replied. “Thank you for the key. Thank you for your friendship. It was an amazing time together… Brother, sister, you know – I think you know – what are the most important things for us: for me, for Sergey, for Denis, for the family, our children, the peace between our countries, our friendship. Thank you for your friendship.”

Crew-3 took off from KSC on November 10, 2021, and during their stay, which lasted just under six months, the quartet traveled more than 75 million miles in more than 2,800 orbits around the Earth. They saw the arrival of eight vehicles during the stay, participated in four spacewalks and carried out hundreds of experiments and technology demonstrations.

This includes participating in a vision loss study and the dryness-resistant cotton test, microgravity fire safety, and a portable bio-printer that uses skin cells to print bandages directly onto a wound.

Endurance has also brought home some of these experiments to study on Earth.

As he pulled away after his autonomous undocking, Chari, back in command while in the pod, waved goodbye to Crew-4 Lindgren.

“Station, Endurance, thank you for the warm send-off, good luck with Expedition 67,” Chari said. “It was awesome being up there with you guys. I can’t wait to see the awesome work you continue to do on that amazing orbital lab up there.

“Endurance, appreciate the kind words,” Lindgren replied. “We had a great time passing the baton with you all, and I can’t wait to see your smiling faces on the pitch.”

Crew-4 won’t return until mid-September, when Crew-5 will fly Endurance on its second mission to the station.

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First, he had to come back to Earth. Its crew slept most of the day, waking at 4.30pm to prepare for a series of orbit-lowering maneuvers before reentering the atmosphere, splashing down 23.5 hours after leaving the ISS .

Their 177 days in space mark the end of SpaceX’s third operational flight under NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. The first crewed flight to the ISS, Demo-2, made it to the station just under two years ago when NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley lifted off from KSC on May 30, 2020 to a two-month stay on board.

The flight marked the first time since the end of the space shuttle program nearly nine years earlier that a spacecraft had carried astronauts to the ISS from US soil. Since then, SpaceX has flown its Crew Dragon with passengers six more times, some on private missions such as AX-1 and the orbital trip that didn’t visit the ISS, Inspiration4, last September on Crew Dragon. Resilience.

“It’s pretty wild because it looks like yesterday we flew Bob and Doug for the Demo-2 mission,” Jessica Jensen, vice president of customer operations and integration at SpaceX said last month. before the launch of Crew-4, noting that it was the 31st Dragon, including crew and cargo, to dock with the ISS. “It’s a super busy time, really exciting. Even though it sounds busy and a bit crazy, astronaut safety and mission safety are always our top priority. If we have to take a closer look and take the time to do it, we will.

NASA awarded SpaceX and Boeing the contract to take over the ferry service to the station after having to rely on Russia for flights on their Soyuz spacecraft for a period of nearly a decade. The cost of these trips had soared in recent years to $80 million per person.

Boeing’s ride, the CST-100 Starliner, has yet to complete its uncrewed demonstration flight to dock at the station, which it last attempted in December 2019. The plan, however, is that Crew-4 is hosting Starliner on that mission redesign – Orbital Flight Test-2 – later this month after it launches from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket. The objective of this takeoff is May 19. If successful, a crewed test flight is planned for later this year.

After that, NASA will have both SpaceX and Boeing sharing crew transport responsibilities.

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