PORT CANAVERAL, Fla. – Looking a little toasty after a historic splashdown on the Gulf Coast, SpaceX’s astronaut spacecraft will arrive back at Cape Canaveral on Friday afternoon.
The Crew Dragon spacecraft nicknamed Endeavour arrived by boat coming into Port Canaveral around 5 p.m. as the recovery vessel called Go Navigator made its way into Port.
The vessel could be spotted off shore about a half hour before its arrival as it headed toward Jetty Park.
SpaceX launched Endeavour on a Falcon 9 rocket on May 30 from Kennedy Space Center with NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley, becoming the first time humans have launched from Florida since 2011. The SpaceX test mission known as Demo-2 also marked the first time a private company provided astronaut transportation to and from the International Space Station.
Dragon departed the ISS on Saturday and successfully completed its test flight splashing down in the Gulf of Mexico where teams were standing by to retrieve the astronauts and their ride.
Two months after #Demo2 launch and five days after splashdown in Gulf of Mexico with @AstroBehnken and @Astro_Doug, #SpaceX #CrewDragon #Endeavour returns to the Space Coast. Dragon arrived at @PortCanaveral after 5 tonight @news6wkmg @SpaceX @elonmusk #LaunchAmerica #LandAmerica pic.twitter.com/2FHoNQmgRr— James Sparvero (@News6James) August 7, 2020
The astronauts described their return home in detail, the capsule traveled at speeds up to 17,500 mph in space and then experienced 4.2 G-forces coming down to Earth.
Behnken said next, before the parachutes deployed slowing the spacecraft from 350 mph to about 15 mph for splashdown, they could feel Crew Dragon maneuver itself for re-entry using its thrusters.
“It came alive. It started to fire thrusters and keep us pointed in the appropriate direction, the atmosphere starts to make noise, you can hear that rumble outside the vehicle,” Behnken said. “It doesn’t sound like a machine. It sounds like an animal coming through the atmosphere.”
Since returning to Earth, Hurley and Behnken have been readjusting to gravity and spending time with their families.
Once the spacecraft is back at Cape Canaveral, the work begins to determine if NASA can issue the final flight certification for Dragon.
SpaceX will take apart Dragon Endeavour to evaluate how the hardware held up during the spaceflight.
Steve Stich, manager of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, said it will take about four months to refurbish the spacecraft before it can fly astronauts again.
“As soon as it gets back to Area 59 at the Cape, it’ll start going through its maintenance, and NASA is a part of that maintenance ... and we’ll follow along with every step of that maintenance,” Stich said.
Stich said NASA and SpaceX will first review all of the telemetry for undocking, splashdown and recovery, including life support systems.
If the review and restoration goes well the next time Dragon Endeavour launches could be as early as the first part of next year. On that flight, NASA astronauts Megan McArthur and Shane Kimbrough, will be joined by Japanese astronaut Akihiko Hoshide and European astronaut Thomas Pesquet.
McArthur also happens to be Behnken’s wife.
Another astronaut crew, with three NASA astronauts and one Japanses astronaut, are set to launch on a separate Crew Dragon spacecraft in late September.