Two months after NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley traveled via SpaceX’s Crew Dragon to the International Space Station (ISS), they’ll return to Earth. NASA is planning for the SpaceX Crew Dragon to splash down in the Atlantic Ocean on August 2nd, CNBC reports.
This will mark the completion of the Demo-2 mission, SpaceX’s first crewed flight and the first mission to launch NASA astronauts from US soil since 2011.
Behnken and Hurley will un-dock from the ISS around 8PM ET on August 1st, though that depends on factors like weather. Behnken and Hurley left Earth on May 30th, so in total, the mission will be about two months long.
Demo-2 was the last test SpaceX needed to pass in order to get Crew Dragon certified for operational crew flights to and from the ISS. Assuming the landing and recovery go as planned, Crew Dragon will begin a series of regular roundtrip flights. The first could happen later this year, carrying NASA and Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronauts to the ISS.
SpaceX previously said it could send private citizens to space in late 2021 or 2022. Demo-2’s success is at least a step in that direction. And at this rate, if anyone is going to bring Tom Cruise to space to film a movie aboard the ISS, it looks like that could be SpaceX.
SpaceX’s Starship Rocket Prototype Collapsed On Itself This Weekend
Another SpaceX test ended in failure this past weekend. A prototype of the company’s Starship rocket, SN1, imploded in a pressure test late Friday night. Elon Musk acknowledged the incident on Twitter, sharing a video and writing, “It’s fine, we’ll just buff it out.”
The prototype caved in on itself after being filled with super-cold, liquid nitrogen propellant, The Verge reports. In a tweet, Musk said it had to do with a “puck” at the base of the vehicle. “Don’t shuck the puck!” he joked.
Musk said the company plans to strip the next Starship rocket prototype, SN2, to the bare minimum and test its puck under pressure, first with water, and then with the cryo propellant. It could be ready to test in just a few days.
SN1 was the first of a series of test articles that SpaceX is building and testing in order to refine the systems needed for a fully functional Starship, according to Space.com. “Each SN will have at least minor improvements, at least through SN20 or so of Starship V1.0,” Musk tweeted in December.
SpaceX revealed the first full Starship prototype, Starship Mk1, last fall. A couple months later, its bulkhead blew off during a pressure test. The company has already moved on to the second- and third-generations, Mk2 and Mk3. But with these test failures, it’s hard to say if it’s still on track to meet the ambitious timeline Musk once promised.