Crew Dragon Departs Station Ahead of Sunday Splashdown

The SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft, carrying NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley, undocks from the International Space Station on Aug. 1, 2020. (Credit: NASA)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 mission passed a significant milestone this evening as the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft undocked from the International Space Station at 7:35 p.m. EDT after more than two months of docked operations in orbit.

Astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley, traveling aboard the spacecraft they named “Endeavour,” will spend one more night in space before beginning their journey back to Earth on Sunday in the first return of a commercially built and operated American spacecraft carrying astronauts from the space station.

With the spacecraft on its path home, the astronauts will settle in for an eight-hour sleep period. While they’re asleep, a six-minute departure phasing burn at 1:48 a.m. EDT Sunday, Aug. 2 will set the Dragon Endeavour on the proper orbital path to a planned splashdown in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Pensacola, Florida.

It was an honor and privilege to be part of Expedition 63. Thanks to @Astro_SEAL, Anatoly, & @ivan_mks63  for making our stay on @Space_Station an incredible experience. Now it’s time to finish our DM-2 test flight in order to pave the way for future Dragon crews. Go Endeavour! https://t.co/9zTMPhc7kw

— Col. Doug Hurley (@Astro_Doug) August 2, 2020

The deorbit burn, which slows the spacecraft’s forward speed enough to begin its descent, is scheduled for 1:51 p.m. EDT on Sunday, with splashdown at 2:48 p.m. EDT. Teams continue to closely monitor Hurricane Isaias and evaluate impacts to the landing sites in the Gulf of Mexico along the Florida Panhandle. Teams have  several weather decision milestones ahead of and after undocking to adjust the splashdown location and time based on the forecasted conditions for recovery.

NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley are seated inside the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft prior to undocking from the International Space Station on Aug. 1, 2020. (Credit: NASA)

Follow along with the return and recovery activities here on the blog and on NASA Television.

Behnken and Hurley arrived at the orbiting laboratory on May 31, following a successful launch on May 30 on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. During their 63 days aboard the station, Behnken and Hurley contributed more than 100 hours of time to supporting the orbiting laboratory’s investigations, participated in public engagement events, and supported four spacewalks with Behnken and Cassidy to install new batteries in the station’s power grid and upgrade other station hardware.

These activities are a part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, which has been working with the U.S. aerospace industry to launch astronauts on American rockets and spacecraft from American soil the International Space Station for the first time since 2011. This is SpaceX’s final test flight and is providing data on the performance of the Falcon 9 rocket, Crew Dragon spacecraft and ground systems, as well as in-orbit, docking, splashdown and recovery operations.

The test flight also is helping NASA certify SpaceX’s crew transportation system for regular flights carrying astronauts to and from the space station. SpaceX is readying the hardware for the first rotational mission, which would occur following NASA certification.