Tag Archives: splashdown

Dragon is back again!

The CRS-8 Dragon capsule that launched from Florida a month ago (setting into motion the historic first controlled sea landing of a rocket) has now returned to Earth.   I haven’t found any video of the splashdown, but here’s its departure from Station:

It carried a lot of critical experiments up, and on the way down it’s carrying things like biological specimens, but the big deal for this flight was the BEAM it carried in its (now-discarded) unpressurized trunk compartment.  The Bigelow Expandable Activity Module is currently mated to the aft port of the Tranquility node, but is not scheduled to be inflated until later this month.  It isn’t really  meant as a fully operational module, and for the start at least, crews are only planning to make brief excursions into the module, sealing it up when not in use.  But if all goes well, Bigelow Aerospace plans for it to become the first of a whole family of orbiting space habitats.

The next Dragon capsule is scheduled to fly in late June.  Its primary payload will replace what was lost on the CRS-7 launch failure: a docking adapter stored in the trunk section.  Boeing is contracted to deliver two of those, and NASA is exercising an option to have them build a third out of flight spares to replace the one that was lost.  NASA needs two docking adapters at Station so as to be able to host two commercial crew vehicles simultaneously, so the upcoming flight will be absolutely critical to the return of human spaceflight from US soil.

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CRS-4 Dragon Capsule Comes Home

Dragon left the Station last Saturday.  Here’s the unberthing video; watch the sunrise just after Dragon separates from the node, and the first burn of its engines after release, seen from the camera on the end effector of the SSRMS:

The capsule later splashed down in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Baja California, laden with 3,300 pounds of cargo, including a group of mice.  At 34 days, 13 hours and 49 minutes (from liftoff to splashdown), this sets a new duration record for the Dragon.  This now gives the type second place in flight duration for a reusable spacecraft; Shuttle maxed out at 17 days, and the current duration record for X-37 is over two years.  I’m not sure how long Dragon could theoretically remain on orbit; being solar powered it isn’t constrained by fuel cell reactants like Shuttle was, but there are other considerations and I just don’t know what its limit is.  There hasn’t been much reason to challenge it to date, but its crewed successor would need to last at least six months to compete favorably with Soyuz, so I would presume it can manage at least that (and ideally, much longer).

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New Falcon 9.1.1 First Stage Splashdown Video!

SpaceX has released rocketcam video of the Falcon 9.1.1 splashdown from the recent ORBCOMM flight!  It’s much better than the last attempt, although the camera lens unfortunately iced over.  You can still see the landing legs deploy, though.

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