NASA targets Aug. 2 to bring astronauts from SpaceX Crew Dragon home

Richard Tribou, Orlando Sentinel

ORLANDO, Fla. — NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said the two astronauts from SpaceX’s Crew Dragon will leave the International Space Station on Aug. 1 for a return to Earth on Aug. 2.

Bridenstine posted the timeline for the return of Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley to complete the historic mission that marked the first time astronauts had launched from U.S. soil since the end of the space shuttle era.

The duo took off in the Crew Dragon capsule atop a Falcon 9 rocket from Kennedy Space Centers’ Launch Complex 39-A on May 30 and docked at the ISS the following day.

The Crew Dragon is the first commercially built American spacecraft to carry humans into orbit, the first of two commercial companies — the other being Boeing with its CST-100 Starliner — NASA plans to use to ferry astronauts to and from the ISS.

Bridenstine said weather will determine the actual date of landing, but when it does, it will mark the first time astronauts will splash down in the Atlantic Ocean returning from space. Space shuttle missions landed while Apollo and Gemini missions landed in the Pacific Ocean. When Boeing’s Starliner gets up and running, that capsule will make its landing over land.

The capsule was nicknamed Endeavour, and Behnken and Hurley will leave behind Expedition 63 crew members on board the ISS after having spent more than two months docked to the station. Both astronauts took their first shuttle mission aboard Space Shuttle Endeavour.

The landing will conclude SpaceX Demo-2 mission and set up for the company to begin the first of six contracted flights to transport astronauts to the space station under NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. That first flight, dubbed Crew-1, could come as early as August.

Meanwhile, the 45th Space Wing has forecast a 60% chance for good weather for a separate SpaceX launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Sunday evening.

SpaceX had planned to launch the ANASIS-II communication satellite for the South Korean government in an attempt Tuesday, but stood down after to take a closer look at the second stage and swap hardware if needed, the company stated.

The ANASIS-II mission will be the first dedicated communication satellite built for the South Korean government. The satellite was built by aerospace company Airbus and based on the Eurostar satellite platform. If successful, the satellite will be the 52nd Eurostar E3000 satellite launched, according to Aribus, and it will operate in geostationary orbit.

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