Demo-2 astronauts praise performance of Crew Dragon spacecraft

WASHINGTON — The NASA astronauts who flew on the SpaceX Demo-2 business crew car stated they have been pleasantly shocked at how properly the Crew Dragon spacecraft carried out.

At an Aug. 4 press convention, astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley praised SpaceX and NASA’s business crew program for his or her work growing the Crew Dragon spacecraft that they returned to Earth in two days earlier, finishing a mission that lasted slightly greater than two months.

“I personally anticipated there to be extra — definitely not points with the car, however some challenges or some issues that have been perhaps not fairly what we anticipated,” Hurley stated, based mostly on his expertise flying on house shuttle missions. “The mission went similar to the simulators. Truthfully, from begin to end, all the best way, there have been no surprises.”

One instance he gave was throughout reentry, the place he anticipated the car’s angle management to diverge from plan because the spacecraft fell into the denser decrease ambiance shortly earlier than parachute deployment. “I totally anticipated that to occur, and it didn’t,” he stated. “The car was rock stable.”

Behnken painted a vivid image of the reentry because the capsule descended into the ambiance. “As soon as we descended slightly bit into the ambiance, Dragon actually got here alive,” he stated, firing thrusters to take care of the correct angle throughout reentry.

“As we descended by the ambiance, the thrusters have been firing virtually constantly,” he recalled. “It doesn’t sound like a machine. It feels like an animal coming by the ambiance with all puffs which are occurring from the thrusters and the atmospheric noise.”

Nonetheless, he stated that he and Hurley have been ready for that, as SpaceX had offered audio from the reentry of the Demo-1 Crew Dragon spacecraft in March 2019. “When it carried out as anticipated and we may verify off these occasions, we have been actually comfy coming by the ambiance, though it felt like we have been within the inside an animal.”

Authentic plans for the Demo-2 mission known as for a brief take a look at flight, spending as little as a couple of days on the Worldwide House Station. As an alternative, NASA prolonged the mission to 2 months in order that Behnken and Hurley may assist help station operations at a time when solely three individuals are on board. Hurley stated that the prolonged mission had an added good thing about extra totally testing the spacecraft.

“I definitely really feel a lot better from the Crew-1 perspective and subsequent flights of getting Dragon docked to station for 2 months,” he stated, referring to the primary operational Crew Dragon mission, which is able to fly 4 astronauts to the station no sooner than late September. “They need to have much more confidence that the car does high-quality within the quiescent mode, docked to station, and there wasn’t something that wouldn’t have been uncovered had we been up there for just some days.”

Behnken stated there are issues that may very well be improved with the spacecraft, however didn’t go into particulars. “There are some issues that we’ll have some concepts about how we may make higher, to make issues slightly bit extra comfy, or slightly bit extra environment friendly contained in the car,” he stated.

Such suggestions, he stated, was routine through the shuttle program, even on this system’s remaining mission, STS-135, whose crew included Hurley. “I do know Doug will let you know there are issues that would have been improved or would have been improved if we flew a 136,” he stated.

NASA and SpaceX will spend the subsequent a number of weeks reviewing knowledge from the mission and inspecting the spacecraft itself forward of a certification evaluation in late August or early September, which is able to enable Crew-1 and later missions to proceed. Hurley, although, stated it could be a couple of extra flights earlier than the car could be able to fly non-professional astronauts.

“There are definitely issues on Dragon that may very well be examined extra,” akin to the power to dock at a distinct port on the station. “I feel it’s going to take a couple of flights earlier than we are able to think about this car utterly examined.”

However, he added, Crew Dragon is an “excellent car, and they need to be excited to fly on board in the event that they’re fortunate sufficient to do it.”

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