At 8:42 p.m. Central European Time, Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley are expected to return to Earth with their Crew Dragon spacecraft. The spacecraft launched on May 30 and has been in space ever since. Already in the night of Sunday the spaceship undocked from the international space station. Around 19 hours later, it is said to land in the sea west of Florida, during the former Hurricane Isaias travels east of the peninsula.
Since decoupling, the spacecraft has left the orbit of the ISS and is lowered to the lowest point of the orbit. This simplifies the initiation of the re-entry maneuver and at the same time shifts the trajectory over the planned landing site. Endeavor’s landing can be followed on SpaceX’s livestream on YouTube.
It is the first flight of an American spaceship with a human crew since the last flight of a space shuttle. With a flight duration of 64 days, it was the second longest mission of an American spaceship, only surpassed by the 84-day one Mission Skylab 4 with Apollo CSM-118. The space shuttle was only constructed for a mission duration of about 2 weeks.
Endeavor will fly again
After landing, the capsule is to be refurbished and reused for NASA on the next but one flight from SpaceX. It will be the first time that a spacecraft’s reentry capsule is reused after a flight. During the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo programs, a new capsule was constructed for each flight, as was the Soyuz spacecraft. Previously, this was only done for the SpaceX freighters, with no people on board. In the meantime NASA agreed that the first stage of the Falcon 9 can also be reused on flights with crew.
A occupied flight by Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spaceship is not yet foreseeable. After a failed test flight, which revealed numerous errors, especially in software development, the spaceship is still on the ground. NASA found over 80 defects that must now be remedied before a second test flight. Boeing’s contract to develop the spaceship and six operational flights was $ 4.2 billion, while SpaceX only needed $ 2.6 billion for the same performance.