NASA's SpaceX Crew-2 astronauts are set to complete their six-month-long mission tonight. They departed the International Space Station (ISS) this afternoon. Crew Dragon Endeavour undocked from the space-facing port of the ISS Harmony module at 2:05 p.m. EST. Then it performed the first 360-degree flyaround the International Space Station (ISS) before returning Crew-2 to Earth. The last time a spacecraft flew around the orbiting laboratory was during the Space Shuttle fleet era over a decade ago. The operational Russian Soyuz has only performed partial flyarounds of the Space Station.
Crew-2 NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur, JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) astronaut Akihiko Hoshide, and ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Thomas Pesquet are currently flying around the Space Station for approximately two hours. Pesquet is tasked with taking high-resolution photographs of ISS to provide engineers on Earth with new photographs of areas outside the station that onboard cameras cannot view. NASA and SpaceX are Livestreaming the flyaround and their return. The ongoing mission is set to be completed with a splashdown in the ocean tonight.
SpaceX shared a stunning video of astronauts at ISS captured of Endeavour carrying Crew-2 flying around the station with the Earth in the background. The astronauts also shared a video feed of the Space Station as they departed. The ISS is orbiting at around 400 kilometers above the planet.
Once the 360-flyaround "maneuver is completed, additional engine burns will send the spacecraft out of the vicinity of the station and put the Crew Dragon spacecraft on an orbital track that will return the astronaut crew and its cargo safely to the path to its intended splashdown off the coast of Pensacola, Florida," the agency shared in a press release on November 8. "Crew Dragon Endeavour will autonomously execute the departure burns to begin the flight home." Their voyage back to Earth will last around six-and-a-half-hours. UPDATE: 360-flyaround complete.
The Crew Dragon spacecraft will turn on its Draco thrusters to depart away from ISS, then it will conduct a 16-minute deorbit burn with its engines at 9:39 p.m. EST. Then Endeavour will jettison its trunk section to re-enter Earth’s atmosphere. SpaceX and NASA recovery teams target a splashdown in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Pensacola, Florida, at 10:33 p.m. EST. SpaceX's Go Navigator vessel is awaiting in the Gulf of Mexico to fish the capsule out of the water. Once the Dragon is on the deck of the recovery ship, teams will open the spacecraft's hatch and help Kimbrough, McArthur, Hoshide, and Pesquet out of the capsule to fly them via helicopter to NASA's Kennedy Space Center where they will undergo medical check-ups. NASA will continue to Livestream the entire mission, you can follow their Crew-2’s return voyage in the video linked below, schedule is in Eastern Time.
SpaceX Crew Dragon Return Sequence Schedule:
2:32 p.m. Fly around zenith to aft burn
2:54 p.m. Fly around aft to nadir burn
3:17 p.m. Fly around nadir to forward burn
3:39 p.m. Fly around forward to zenith burn
4:02 p.m. Departure burn 0
4:07 p.m. Departure burn 1
4:55 p.m. Departure burn 2
5:41 p.m. Departure burn 3
9:34 p.m. Trunk jettison
9:39 p.m. Deorbit burn begins
10:33 p.m. Crew Dragon splashdown
WATCH IT LIVE!
Source: SpaceX Live Broadcast