SpaceX Dragon capsule splashes down in Atlantic Ocean

Demo-1 splashdown

NASA hoped their spacecrafts would start flying in 2017. The parachute system that flew on this test flight was not entirely the same as the one that will be used for the crew flight, and neither were avionics and life support entirely finalized. But before astronauts can climb aboard, SpaceX has to prove Dragon is ready. As the first crew-capable spacecraft from the United States in eight years, the Crew Dragon needs to show that it is capable of returning to Earth safely.

About an hour after it landed, recovery crews fished the Crew Dragon capsule out of the ocean, using a crane to place it on the "nest" - its resting spot on the aft deck of the Go Searcher recovery ship.

The Crew Dragon drifts away from the ISS.

Later today, the last and the most hard stage of the mission, the actual return back to Earth will take place. Boeing is up next to test its Starliner capsule.

The Dragon undocked from the International Space Station early Friday.

But perhaps the most daring part of the mission was the Dragon's final task: reentering Earth's atmosphere. The capsule is expected at Port Canaveral on Saturday night. "I'd say hypersonic re-entry is probably my biggest concern, just because of the asymmetric backshell". While the Dragon capsule is smoother and conical in shape, the Crew Dragon is more asymmetrical because of the emergency abort system embedded on its outer walls. "That [shape] could potentially cause a roll instability on reentry", Musk said.

"I'm very comfortable with where we're headed with this flight. But this is a possibility".

Demo-1 undocking

SpaceX's recovery ship headed out to pull the Dragon onto its "nest" and bring it back to shore for inspection.

NASA will now spend the next few weeks reviewing data to ensure that its initial impression is correct, first by poring over data from the launch and then sensor data from the on-board mannequin, Ripley, as well as data from the vehicle itself during its orbital phase and re-entry. However, NASA and SpaceX still have work to do to validate the spacecraft's performance and prepare it to fly astronauts.

She added that she and the rest of the panel were pleased that NASA was taking steps, such as buying two additional Soyuz seats from Roscosmos, to alleviate any perceived schedule pressure on the commercial crew program.

NASA has relied on Russian Soyuz rockets ever since the American space shuttle program was retired on in July 2011.

NASA now pays Roscosmos about $80 million per seat to launch astronauts on Soyuz spacecraft. Dragon docked with the ISS Sunday without incident, and the space station's three current crew members were able to open the hatch and enter the capsule.

The undocking process was broadcast online by the USA space agency. "And that's cool", Bill Gerstenmaier, the associate administrator for NASA's human spaceflight program, said during a briefing before the launch, The Washington Post reports.

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