Just over 45 years after the last American astronaut landed in the ocean, NASA and its partner SpaceX plan to land astronauts at sea again on August 2.
Last week, the agency announced that the SpaceX commercial crew’s Demo-2 mission, carrying NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken, intended to return to Earth by spilling into the ocean near Florida at one of seven designated landing sites. The mission is expected to land at 2:42 p.m. EDT (1842 GMT) if weather and technical systems cooperate, NASA said in a statement.
The talk will be broadcast on NASA television, and the astronauts will land at one of the following locations: off the coast of Pensacola, Tampa, Tallahassee, Panama City, Cape Canaveral, Dayton or Jacksonville, NASA said in the same report. The return time for astronauts will take six to 30 hours, depending on the exact detachment and fallout zone selected. NASA and SpaceX are currently expecting Aug. 1at 7:34 p.m. EDT (2334 GMT) to disconnect Crew Dragon from the International Space Station.
Related: SpaceX’s historic test flight of Demo-2 Crew Dragon astronauts
Demo-2splashdown will be a historic moment. On the one hand, it will be a “back to the future” moment: the last time astronauts landed in the ocean was in 1975. July 24 Apollo-Soyuz test project between the United States and the Soviet Union. The Demo-2 landing will also complete a commercial crew test mission for the first time and prepare NASA for operational flights with SpaceX; the next start is September. with a full crew of four astronauts.
Splashdown will usher in a new era for NASA, which finally (after more than a decade of work) has one version of a replacement commercial crew spacecraft ready to launch American astronauts into the International Space Station. SpaceX and other partner Boeing are expected to fundamentally replace the Soyuz spacecraft used by NASA astronauts in the year the agency’s space shooting program was launched in 2011. He stopped flying to get to the space station.
We do not know the exact location of the splashes about two days before landing, NASA added to the fact sheet, and the agreed area will be confirmed at 6 a.m. and again 2.5 h before disconnection. If the conditions at the place of unloading are “no” or low, uncoupling is likely to take place in any case. NASA and SpaceX will continue to monitor as astronauts approach Earth, as weather conditions can change quickly and they will leave room for a spill if possible.
If, in the end, the conditions are not favorable for the landing, the crew has the opportunity to “wave” the landing for 24 to 48 hours and remain in space on board the Crew Ddragon Endeavor before the second attempt.
“Splashdown locations are selected according to defined priorities, starting with the station’s departure date and time, taking into account the maximum number of return opportunities at geographically different locations to protect against changes in weather conditions,” the agency said. said in the fact sheet. “Teams also prioritize locations that require the shortest time between uncoupling and disassembly, based on orbital mechanics, and the possibility of splashes occurring during daylight hours.”
Recovery parameters will depend on factors such as wind speed (no more than 15 feet or 4.5 meters per second), no more than seven degrees of ocean wave slope, rain, lightning (which cannot occur at a distance of 10 miles or 16 km). ), whether there are helicopters capable of taking astronauts (helicopters will be tested before deployment), the pitch and taxiing of the ship (which should not exceed four degrees), the visible ceiling (at least 500 feet) or 152 meters) and the overall visibility (at least less than half a mile or 0.8 km, depending on daylight exposure.)
Here are the main goals expected after the disappearance, according to NASA:
When the Crew Dragon Endeavor separates from the space station, it will complete two minor engine burns to safely leave the station. Endeavor will then perform four longer burnouts, which will allow him to enter Earth. After a few hours, assuming the spray conditions look good, Endeavor will complete a six-minute “departure phase burn” and place it in proper spray zone orbit.
Endeavor will then launch its trunk, which features the spacecraft’s solar panels and other equipment to clean its heat shield so it can re-enter. Endeavor will then “deorbit burn” and begin to immerse it in the Earth’s atmosphere, spreading air at 17,500 mph (28,000 km / h). The eclipse will last for six minutes as the heat shield reaches 3,500 degrees Fahrenheit (1,900 degrees Celsius).
After escaping again, Endeavor will fly two inorganic parachutes at an altitude of 18,000 feet (about 5.5 km), reducing speed from 350 mph to 119 miles per hour (from 560 km / h to 191 km / h). The three main parachutes will be deployed when the Endeavor is approximately 6,000 feet (1.8 km) above the ground.
The next one will be squeezed. The crew will be taken over by one of the two rescue ships, the Go Searcher or the Go Navigator. Each ship will carry more than 40 NASA and SpaceX personnel, including personnel such as water resuscitation experts, medical professionals, spacecraft engineers, and other people specializing in recovery operations.
The main emergency ship will send two smaller ships with SpaceX personnel. One vessel will ensure that the capsule is leaking (NASA’s Mercury Liberty Bell 7 spacecraft accidentally drowned in 1961 and was recovered only in 1999.) The ship will also make sure that there is no propellant vapor that could endanger the crew. The second ship will recover parachutes that are currently supposed to float freely in the water from Endeavor.
When all is done, the main emergency ship will move toward Endeavor and lift the spacecraft (with the crew still inside) on the main deck. Behnken and Hurley’s medics will help with routine medical check-ups as soon as they arrive and get off their spaceship. If everything went according to plan, the crew should return to the lifeboat within 45-60 minutes of the spray.
After completing the medical examinations, Hurley and Behnken will be taken ashore by helicopter (at six of the seven recovery sites) or by delivery ship (if the crew lands near Cape Canaveral.) This will take 10 minutes to 80 minutes. return to dry land, after which the crew will fly on a NASA plane to return to their home base in Houston. It will take at least a few weeks for them to recover from space, which is typical of returning crews who spend months in a row during microgravity.
Endeavor will choose a separate route in Florida where SpaceX can be tested and processed. Certification of the spacecraft for operational missions will take approximately six weeks, after which the next mission (1 crew) will be allowed to start in September.
Follow Elizabeth Howell on Twitter @howellspace. Follow us Twitter @Spacedotcom and further Facebook.