After a five-day stay at the space station, the Crew Dragon spacecraft undocked and splashed down in the Atlantic Ocean at 8:45 a.m. EST on Friday, March 8. The splashdown is the last act in what has been a successful first flight for the Crew Dragon. Crew Dragon remained attached to the space station from Sunday, allowing SpaceX engineers more time to test a variety of systems and components. All this is "leading to a day where we are launching American astronauts on American rockets from American soil", he said.
This flight is the beginning of a new phase in American spaceflight. In the intervening years, it has been relying on Russia's Soyuz spacecraft to shuttle crew back and forth.
In this image from video made available by NASA, the SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule is hoisted onto a ship in the Atlantic Ocean off the Florida coast after it returned from a mission to the International Space Station. NASA and SpaceX have not been forthcoming about what those problems were, and continue to refer to them vaguely as "anomalies", even in an October safety advisory panel report submitted to NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. Certainly, this triumphant moment capped an emotional week for a company that has worked for the better part of a decade to develop a crewed spacecraft. It's a new way of doing things for NASA. The commercial companies design the spacecraft themselves, in accordance with requirements set out by NASA. As it stands, there are two partners: Boeing and SpaceX.
SpaceX has said it hopes to get the capsule approved for a manned flight in July and Boeing plans to test its capsule next month.
The spaceship carried 180kg of supplies and test equipment, including a crash test dummy named Ripley, after Sigourney Weaver's character in Alien.
The Crew Dragon re-entering the atmosphere on March 8.
The mission has so far gone smoothly. NASA's WB-57 is capturing the flight.
"Even though it was historic and emotional, we were really heads down making sure we were doing everything step-by-step correctly" when opening Crew Dragon's hatch, Saint-Jacques said, "but I had these moments of, 'oh, a-ha, ' with the light of the inside and the view of the attractive cockpit". "It was attractive", said Benji Reed, director of crew mission management at SpaceX.
But after this week's SpaceX flight, if post-mission review determines the flight had no issues, we could see astronauts climb aboard the Crew Dragon by the end of the year. It's slated for Summer 2019, and will carry American astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley.
The crewless mission, called Demo-1, was SpaceX's chance to show it can build a spaceship that can carry people.
While Crew Dragon will be recovered from the ocean this time, the spacecraft was designed with the ability to make powered landings using its four side-mounted "Super Draco" thrusters.
Assuming a detailed post-flight inspection and data analysis confirm the capsule's apparently problem-free performance, NASA will be a major step closer to launching two astronauts aboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule this summer, the first flight of a USA crew from American soil since the shuttle made its final flight in 2011.
So what's left to say?