Elon Musk’s SpaceX crew return to Earth on August 2; NASA

By Rahul Vaimal, Associate Editor
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Space X Dragon Capsule Team
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USA’s national space agency, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has informed that the astronauts who traveled to the International Space Station (ISS) on the first crewed flight of SpaceX in May are expected to return to Earth on August 2 after spending two months in orbit.

They will be returning in the same Crew Dragon vehicle that launched the astronauts at the end of May — marking the first time that a private spacecraft has taken people into orbit.

U.S. astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley are preparing for the final benchmark test of SpaceX’s and have had a busy schedule while in orbit, with Behnken performing several spacewalks outside the International Space Station to switch aging batteries.

Behnken is preparing for his last spacewalk on July 21 before gearing up to depart the space station with Hurley, NASA said. Weather forecasts will be closely watched by the mission planners on earth to calculate the exact time and location of the splashdown of Crew Dragon and added that the date may change depending on the weather conditions.

The so-called Demonstration Mission 2, or DM-2 mission which is a coordinated splashdown somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean will record NASA’s first U.S. soil crew mission in almost a decade. NASA astronauts have had to catch a ride into orbit on Russia’s Soyuz spacecraft since 2011 since the US space shuttle program concluded that year.

The return of the crew to Earth will also be the Crew Dragon’s last big check to show that the vehicle can safely get people to the ground. The capsule has a heat shield built to protect its occupants from the heat-induced by the spacecraft plunging through the atmosphere of Earth.

The Crew Dragon is also sporting a four parachute suite that will deploy once the capsule is closer to the ground. They’re going to lower the ship gently into the Atlantic Ocean, where a special SpaceX retrieval vessel will pick up the spacecraft and its astronauts.

If all goes well, the splashdown will end the first crewed test flight of the Crew Dragon. The test mission will assess if the Crew Dragon is capable of regularly flying astronaut crews to and from the ISS. SpaceX’s next Crew Dragon flight is reportedly scheduled for mid-to-late September and will carry four astronauts to the island.

Boeing Co, which manufactures its own launch system in competition with SpaceX, is expected to fly its CST-100 Starliner vehicle for the first time next year with astronauts aboard. NASA has awarded SpaceX and Boeing nearly $ 8 billion combined to develop their rival rockets.