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SpaceX Crew Dragon demo capsule returns to Earth

SpaceX completes historic Crew Dragon test flight for NASA with splashdown in the Atlantic

SpaceX Crew Dragon demo capsule returns to Earth

The SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule successfully passed its toughest test: it returned to Earth without problems on Firday morning March 8, 2019, enduring the extreme conditions of reentry to the atmosphere. The spacecraft had been co-located on the International Space Station (ISS).

This tough test had been a concern for Elon Musk, the CEO of the company. “I think hypersonic re-entry is probably my biggest concern,” Musk had said on the last Saturday morning a few hours after the Crew Dragon capsule had been launched with a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from the Kennedy Space Center at NASA Cape Canaveral. , Florida.

A hard trip back

Both the Crew Dragon parachute system and the lower outer protective layer worked without problems. Until before this re-entry, none of these had been fully tested and were very different from the versions used by the Dragon’s variant of cargo , which has made 16 robotic replenishment trips to the ISS for NASA.

As Space.com explains, the back cover of the Cargo Dragon capsule is a soft, conical shape. But the Crew Dragon is asymmetric, as it has to accommodate the eight SuperDraco exhaust engines that could take out the capsule from the hazard in the event of a launch emergency. “That could potentially cause a roll instability in re-entry,” Musk had feared. “I think it’s unlikely, we’ve run simulations thousand times, but this is a possibility.

“Another difference is that the cargo Dragon falls in the Pacific Ocean, while the new Crew Dragon will do it in the Atlantic (in a place not very far from Florida). That’s why Musk wondered if “Will the parachutes deploy correctly?” And if “Will the system guide Dragon 2 to the correct location and will it splash safely?

“The Crew Dragon is one of the two manned spacecraft created under NASA’s program to stimulate the development of spacecraft by private companies. This new capsule has capacity for a team of 4 or 7 people and can spend more than 200 days coupled to the ISS .

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