SpaceX’s Crew Dragon Departs Space Station, Heads Home to Complete Maiden Voyage

ISS crew member and plush toy Earth continues work aboard the station

Little Earth and the cargo will stay on the space station, while Ripley is headed back home on Crew Dragon.

The spaceship carried 180kg of supplies and test equipment, including a crash test dummy named Ripley, after Sigourney Weaver's character in Alien. The deorbit burn, powering the Crew Dragon back to Earth will occur not long after that at 4:50 a.m. and then the all important splashdown will occur at some point between 5:30 a.m. and 5:45 a.m.

Returning to Earth is described as the toughest part of the mission.

Completing the test mission on Friday will bring SpaceX's Crew Dragon one step closer to flying humans - and ending the United States' years-long reliance on Russian Federation to fly NASA astronauts to and from the ISS. And the first crewed mission, which will carry astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken, is slated for July, according to NASA's most recent schedule.

The reentry is one of the biggest tests of the Dragon and of SpaceX, the company founded by Musk in 2002 with the ultimate goal of flying humans to Earth's orbit and beyond.

ISS Crew Member Earth Continues Work Aboard the Station 1
Earth making sure she is on schedule | Image credit NASA Anne McClain

NASA has been unable to fly its own astronauts since the final Space Shuttle retired in 2011, after which the space agency turned to the private sector to develop the next generation of human spaceflight hardware.

SpaceX-built Crew Dragon took off on the six-day journey with the help of a Falcon 9 rocket from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida last Saturday, receiving tight-lipped praise from Roscosmos officials.

Once aloft, the SpaceX craft traveled to the space station, whizzing around the Earth at 17,500 miles per hour, catching up early the next morning.

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk told Space.com that he is most concerned about the parachute system operating smoothly. After docking at the ISS, the Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques was the first to enter the capsule, describing it as a "business-class" experience. He found the capsule "very slick" and called it business class. The Securities and Exchange Commission fined him $20 million a year ago after it said he misled investors of his electric auto company, Tesla, when he tweeted that he would take the company private.

Dr Tucker said: "The most risky part is what we call re-entry". The Air Force recently announced it was reviewing the certifications it had granted SpaceX that allow to launch national security payloads. And Bloomberg News reported Thursday that Musk's marijuana use also prompted the Pentagon to review his security clearance.

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