SpaceX Crew Dragon: Crew 6 returns to Earth after six months in space

Crew Dragon Endeavour streaks over Central Florida ahead of splashdown (Credit Richard Angle)

Crew Dragon Endeavour blazed over Central Florida just after midnight, putting on a show for millions below as it headed towards a splashdown off the coast of Jacksonville, Florida.

After undocking from the International Space Station at 7:05 a.m. ET (11:05 UTC) Sunday, September 3rd, the capsule began firing its Draco thrusters in small bursts to move safely away. Crew Dragon performed a series of small departure burns to leave the “keep out sphere” that is around the Space Station.

Over the next few hours after leaving the Space Station, Crew 6 began preparing for the fiery re-entry through Earth’s atmosphere. The trunk, which provides power to the Capsule, was jettisoned shortly, followed by the de-orbit burn. This burn lasted 16 minutes and slowed the capsule down from its orbital velocity, allowing the spacecraft to begin its journey home.

The entry interface began while traveling over Southern Mexico, with plasma building around the capsule from the friction created during entry. Endeavour continued on, passing over the West coast of Florida and crossing over the state near Jacksonville. The splashdown site was a couple of hundred miles off of the coast where the drogue chutes deployed, followed by the four main parachutes, which slowed the capsule down to ~15 miles per hour.

SpaceX’s fast boats then moved in to clear the parachutes, check for any leaks from the Draco fuel system, and attach the recovery harness that is used to hoist the capsule out of the water. It took approximately an hour from splashdown to crew exit from Endeavour. Crew 6 was then given a quick medical check before they boarded a helicopter for a ride back to Jacksonville and then a short flight to Houston.

Crew 6 consisted of NASA astronauts Stephen Bowen and Woody Hoburg, United Arab Emirates astronaut Sultan Alneyadi, and Roscosmos cosmonaut Andrey Fedyaev. They completed 2,976 orbits around Earth, accumulating over 78 million miles during their 185 days in space.

Crew Dragon Endeavour completed its 4th flight to the ISS, and it will now be brought back to Port Canaveral ahead of refurbishment and assignment of its next mission to the Space Station. Crew Dragon capsules are currently rated for five missions, but SpaceX and NASA are looking at extending those to 15. The next mission for Endeavour will be Crew 8 in 2024.

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SpaceX Crew Dragon: Crew 6 returns to Earth after six months in space
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