What you need to know about the return of SpaceX Dragon Endeavour

Space Coast, FL – On May 30, 2020, SpaceX launched a Falcon 9 rocket from LC-39A on NASA Kennedy Space Center, FL. This historic spaceflight was the first human test flight since the shuttle program in 2011. Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley are the 2 men that launched in a Crew Dragon spacecraft on top of a Falcon 9 rocket.

It is their time to pack things up from the International Space Station and come home. Slated for August 2, 2020.

Where will they splash down?

The seven potential splashdown sites are off the coasts of Florida, near Pensacola, Tampa, Tallahassee, Panama City, Cape Canaveral, Daytona, and Jacksonville

Seven possible splash down locaitons | image: NASA

How do they decide which location will be chosen?

Splashdown areas are chosen using defined priorities. Beginning with choosing a station departure date and time. Along with the most amount of return possibilities in geographically various place to shield for climate changes. Teams additionally prioritize areas which require the shortest amount of time from undocking and splashdown. This is primarily based on orbital mechanics, and splashdown possibilities that take place in sunlight hours.

SpaceX’s Crew Dragon is guided by four parachutes as it splashes down in the Atlantic on March 8, 2019, DM-1 return | photo: NASA/Cory Huston

How long will the return to Earth take?

From undocking to splash down it can take anywhere from 6 to 30 hours.

What is the speed of Dragon Endeavour as it enters Earth’s atmosphere?

Approximately 17,500 miles an hour. It will get hot too. The Dragon Endeavour heat shield will heat up to about 3,500 degrees Fahrenheit, This is also when a communication black out will occur. This is expected and will be lost, for about 6 minutes.

Let’s see the chutes!

There are 2 sets of parachutes that will deploy. The first deployment will be the two drogue parachutes. They will be deployed at 18,000 feet while Dragon Endeavour is travelling at about 350 mph. The second deployment will be the four main parachutes. They will deploy at about 6,000 feet. This will happen while the spacecraft is moving at about 119 mph.

Who and where is Dragon’s & Bob and Doug’s ride?

Two recovery ships, Go Searcher and Go Navigator will split locations between the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean. Both ships are equipped with more than 40 personal from SpaceX and NASA. They are made up of trained water recovery experts, medical professionals, the ship’s crew, NASA cargo experts, spacecraft engineers, and others.

NASA astronaut Doug Hurley, along with teams from NASA and SpaceX, rehearse crew extraction from SpaceX’s Crew Dragon, which will be used to carry humans to the International Space Station, on August 13, 2019 | photo: NASA/Bill Ingalls
GO Navigator docked in Port Canaveral, FL | photo: Jon Van Horne
GO Searcher makes way for docking | photo: Jon Van Horne

How long will it take to get Bob and Doug out of Dragon Endeavour?

The whole process should take about 45-60 minutes, depending on weather and sea conditions.

Bob and Doug are then sent where? You’re at sea!

They will proceed to the medical area on the recovery ship. Yes, both GO Searcher and GO Navigator are medically equipped and with helipad. They will then proceed to head back to land by ship or helicopter if needed. The distance from shore will vary depending on splash down location. It ranges anywhere from 22 to 175 nautical miles. After getting back to land, Bob and Doug will take a first class flight aboard a NASA plane to Ellington field in Houston.

SpaceX’s Crew Dragon is loaded onto the company’s recovery ship, Go Searcher, in the Atlantic Ocean. | photo: SpaceX

Ok, so… what else?

Dragon Endeavour will then undergo examination with a team that will process data and performance about the test flight. This will then complete the certification of the spacecraft for NASA’s Commercial Crew and ISS programs. We will be getting more results in about 6 weeks afterwards. The victorious certification will then make way for the first operational mission… Crew-1.

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Jon Van Horne
Jon Van Horne

He began his career in media as a multimedia designer and developer in Montreal, Quebec. He developed a passion for media during his job in Photography and Video at a Montreal media content company. Other passions in media, photography/videography and soon going back to school in engineering.

reference: NASA