SpaceX mission: how to watch the NASA astronaut undock from the space station

After an eventful stay aboard the International Space Station, four astronauts from the NASA Crew-2 mission are expected to return to Earth on Monday.

Here’s what you need to know about their return trip.

On Monday, crew members will don their space suits, strap into a Crew Dragon capsule built by SpaceX, and then undock from the space station a few hours later at 2:05 p.m. EST.

The return trip will take just over 8 hours, with the capsule, dubbed Endeavor, expected to land around 10:33 p.m. EST on Monday.

NASA will broadcast live coverage of the departure process on NASA TV and its YouTube channel starting Monday at 11:45 a.m., just before the four astronauts close their spacecraft’s hatches. After a brief pause, coverage will resume at 1:45 p.m. and will last until the capsule docks.

Shortly before undocking, NASA and SpaceX will choose one of seven different locations in the waters around the Florida Peninsula for the Crew Dragon landing zone, choosing the area most favorable to the weather conditions. Clear skies, calm seas and gentle winds are the ideal conditions for a space taxi landing.

Crew Dragon is a gumball-shaped astronaut capsule that can accommodate up to seven people, but it has only carried four people so far. It has more interior space than a minivan, but less than a studio.

The capsule is launched into space atop the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, detaches from the thruster once in orbit, and uses a set of tiny on-board thrusters to gradually move towards an encounter with the International Space Station. The spacecraft autonomously approaches the space station and docks at one of its ports of entry, where it remains until it returns to Earth.

SpaceX developed the Astronaut Taxi with around $ 3 billion from a NASA program called the Commercial Crew. The aim of the program was for private companies to own the spacecraft they are building, with NASA being just one of the many buyers of astronaut seats.

The agency’s previous mode of transportation to the space station was the space shuttle. But the shuttle program was withdrawn in 2011, forcing NASA to purchase expensive seats for its astronauts on the Russian Soyuz rocket for nearly a decade.

The toilets aboard the Crew Dragon capsule will remain offline for the duration of the trip. If astronauts are to go, they will need to either hold it or use astronaut-grade layers built into their flight suits.

“Sure, it’s sub-optimal, but we’re prepared to deal with that while we’re aboard Dragon on the way home,” said Megan McArthur, the Crew-2 mission pilot, during the trip. of a press conference on Friday.

In September, SpaceX detected a toilet leak on another SpaceX capsule, according to Bill Gerstenmaier, SpaceX vice president who discussed the toilet problems at a press conference in October. The same issue – which didn’t cause any issues in the crew cabin itself – was detected in Endeavor, the capsule in which Crew-2 flies.

Although the issue was deemed to pose no risk to the safe operation of the spacecraft, the toilet leak on the Crew-2 capsule remains, which means astronauts heeding the call of the wild by orbit must use the “underwear” in their flight suits, Steve Stich, program director for Commercial Crew, told reporters on Oct. 31.

The timing of the Crew-2 astronauts’ return has changed several times over the past week as NASA officials juggled an ever-changing set of factors. The crew was initially scheduled to undock on Wednesday or last Thursday, days after Crew-3, which is NASA and SpaceX’s next astronaut mission to the space station, arrived. This would have ensured a clean transfer between the two crews of the space station. But Crew-3 was delayed to Halloween due to bad weather.

Then a second delay occurred: One of Crew-3’s four astronauts encountered a “minor medical problem,” NASA said in a blog post. When bad weather again interfered with a later launch date, NASA decided to bring Crew-2 astronauts home first and send Crew-3 astronauts into orbit on Wednesday, November 10.

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