The two American astronauts who arrived in the International Space Station (ISS) aboard the first manned flight of SpaceX new ‘Dragon’ capsule in May will leave on 1 August, NASA chief, Jim Bridenstine announced on Friday.
In 2010, Dragon became the first commercially built and operated spacecraft to be recovered successfully from space orbit. Since 2012, SpaceX - a private company founded in 2002 by Elon Musk - has been contracted to deliver cargo to the ISS.
However, this year marked a new milestone in private-public space missions, when Astronauts Bob Behken and Doug Hurley were sent to the space station onboard a SpaceX rocket on 30 May, becoming the first astronauts to be sent to the ISS by a private company.
The flight also marked the first manned flight launched from the United States since 2011, when NASA’s space shuttle fleet was taken out of service. Since then, the Americans have been traveling on Russian rockets.
This will be the first time that Dragon makes the return trip to Earth with astronauts on board. Last year, the spacecraft completed this mission empty and without incident.
Atmospheric re-entry will test the resistance of the spacecraft’s heat shield. Then, large parachutes will slow the descent, towards a water landing in the Atlantic, off Florida. It is the same method as for the old Apollo capsules in the 1960s and 1970s.
The Brussels Times