Almost a week after becoming the first private spacecraft to successfully launch and land astronauts, and the first US astronauts to land in US territory in 45 years, SpaceX has safely returned the historic Demo-2 Crew Dragon to dry land.
After recovering the craft and it’s occupants on their arrival from the International Space Station (ISS) on 2 August, the SpaceX recovery vessel GO Navigator started its journey around the coast of Florida before arriving at Port Canaveral on 7 August.
While astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley were airlifted to NASA’s Houston facilities shortly after splashdown on 2 August, the final lift on to dry land at Port Canaveral marks the true end of Crew Dragon capsule C206’s Demo-2 NASA astronaut launch debut.
NASA had initially not shown that much interest in the recovery operations of the craft, they have now modified the Commercial Crew contract with SpaceX to permit to reuse the Falcon 9 rocket boosters and Crew Dragon capsules on launches as close as eight months away.
In February 2021, Crew-2, shorthand for SpaceX’s second operational astronaut launch to the International Space Station (ISS), will follow directly in the footsteps of Crew-1, itself scheduled no earlier than late September 2021.
Once NASA officially qualifies Crew Dragon for operational astronaut launches, SpaceX teams will likely begin reassembling capsule C206 as soon as possible, undertaking any necessary repairs, replacements, or refurbishment as they go.
SpaceX engineer Kate Tice explained that the Crew Dragon refurbishment process will be quick relative to Cargo Dragon thanks to major design improvements, requiring six months or less between orbital flights.
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