The NASA-SpaceX Demo-2 mission will come to an end Sunday when the spacecraft completes its two-month journey to the International Space Station and back. The two-man SpaceX Crew Dragon is expected to splash down at 2:48 p.m. ET, with the target landing area the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Pensacola, FL, after Hurricane Isaias’ pending arrival on the east coast of Florida forced changes to a planned landing in the Atlantic to change course.
It will mark the first landing at sea for U.S. astronauts since 1975. Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley have been in space since May 30, when they launched at the helm of the first crewed U.S. mission to orbit on a private spacecraft, part of a Space X-NASA partnership.
Space Exploration Technologies Corp., trading as SpaceX, is an American aerospace manufacturer and space transportation services company headquartered in Hawthorne, California. It was founded in 2002 by Elon Musk with the goal of reducing space transportation costs to enable the colonization of Mars. SpaceX has developed several launch vehicles, the Starlink satellite constellation, and the Dragon spacecraft.
SpaceX’s achievements include the first privately funded liquid-propellant rocket to reach orbit (Falcon 1 in 2008), the first private company to successfully launch, orbit, and recover a spacecraft (Dragon in 2010), the first private company to send a spacecraft to the International Space Station (Dragon in 2012), the first propulsive landing for an orbital rocket (Falcon 9 in 2015), the first reuse of an orbital rocket (Falcon 9 in 2017), the first private company to launch an object into orbit around the Sun (Falcon Heavy’s payload of a Tesla Roadster in 2018), and the first private company to send astronauts to the International Space Station (Dragon 2 in 2020). SpaceX has flown 20 cargo resupply missions to the International Space Station (ISS) under a partnership with NASA, as well as an uncrewed demonstration flight of the human-rated Dragon 2 spacecraft (Crew Demo-1) on March 2, 2019, and the first crewed Dragon 2 flight on May 30, 2020.In December 2015, a Falcon 9 accomplished a propulsive vertical landing. This was the first such achievement by a rocket for orbital spaceflight. In April 2016, with the launch of CRS-8, SpaceX successfully vertically landed the first stage on an ocean drone ship landing platform. In May 2016, in another first, SpaceX again landed the first stage, but during a significantly more energetic geostationary transfer orbit mission. In March 2017, SpaceX became the first to successfully re-launch and land the first stage of an orbital rocket. In January 2020, with the third launch of the Starlink project, SpaceX became the largest commercial satellite constellation operator in the world.In September 2016, Musk unveiled the Interplanetary Transport System—subsequently renamed Starship—a privately funded launch system to develop spaceflight technology for use in crewed interplanetary spaceflight. In 2017, Musk unveiled an updated configuration of the system which is intended to handle interplanetary missions plus become the primary SpaceX orbital vehicle after the early 2020s, as SpaceX has announced it intends to eventually replace its existing Falcon 9 launch vehicles and Dragon space capsule fleet with Starship, even in the Earth-orbit satellite delivery market. Starship is planned to be fully reusable and will be the largest rocket ever on its debut, scheduled for the early 2020s.
How To Watch The SpaceX Splashdown Online And On TV
Splashdown is the method of landing a spacecraft by parachute in a body of water. It was used by crewed American spacecraft prior to the Space Shuttle program, and is planned for use by the upcoming Orion Multipurpose Crew Vehicle. It is also possible for the Russian Soyuz spacecraft to land in water, though this is only a contingency. The only example of an unintentional crewed splashdown in Soviet history is the Soyuz 23 landing.
As the name suggests, the capsule parachutes into an ocean or other large body of water. The properties of water cushion the spacecraft enough that there is no need for a braking rocket to slow the final descent as is the case with Russian and Chinese crewed space capsules, which return to Earth over land. The American practice came in part because American launch sites are on the coastline and launch primarily over water. Russian launch sites are far inland and most early launch aborts were likely to descend on land.
NASA TV will host a livestream of the return of Behnken and Hurley from their 63 days in space (that’s about 1,024 orbits around Earth). Coverage begins at about 7:25 a.m. ET/4:25 a,m. PT, which you can also watch here.
In addition, Discovery and Science Channel will provide full coverage of the splashdown at 1 p.m. ET/10 a.m. ET. The two networks teamed to broadcast the historic launch of the Space X Crew Dragon, with that two-hour live broadcast drawing record ratings for both cable networks.
How To Watch The SpaceX Splashdown Online And On TV
On Saturday, the Crew Dragon spacecraft undocked from the International Space Station at 7:35 p.m. ET after more than two months of docked operations in orbit. The spacecraft, now named Dragon Endeavour, will perform a six-minute departure phasing burn at 1:48 a.m. ET to achieve the proper orbital path for landing.
The mission is the first to send astronauts on American rockets from American soil to the International Space Station since 2011.