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Relive the final descent of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft

A new video released by SpaceX shows the company’s Crew Dragon capsule plunging toward the Gulf of Mexico before unfurling a series of parachutes to slow the spaceship carrying two NASA astronauts from 350 mph to a relatively gentle 15 mph before splashdown Sunday.

The dramatic tracking video released by SpaceX late Monday shows the capsule deploying two drogue chutes at an altitude of around 18,000 feet, or 5,500 meters, while moving at about 350 mph, or more than 560 kilometers per hour.

Moments later, four giant orange and white main parachutes fired out of mortars on the side of the Crew Dragon capsule at an altitude of 6,000 feet (1,800 meters), then began opening to their full size to slow the spaceship from 119 mph (191 kilometers per hour) to around 15 mph (24 kilometers per hour) before splashdown in the Gulf of Mexico around 34 miles (54 kilometers) off the coast of Florida near Pensacola.

The successful return to Earth with NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken closed out a 64-day test flight, the first orbital mission by astronauts on a U.S. spaceship since the retirement of the space shuttle in 2011. The commercial capsule was built and is owned by SpaceX, the private space transportation company founded by Elon Musk in 2002.

The successful two-month test flight to the International Space Station sets the stage for the first operational flight of a Crew Dragon spacecraft later this year. That mission will deliver four astronauts to the space station for a stay lasting around six months.

Hurley and Behnken named their reusable Crew Dragon spacecraft “Endeavour” after NASA’s retired space shuttle, on which both astronauts flew earlier in their careers.

The Dragon Endeavour spacecraft launched May 30 atop a Falcon 9 rocket from the Kennedy Space Center, then autonomously docked with the space station May 31. During their two months on the orbiting research complex, Hurley and Behnken assisted the station’s other three crew members with maintenance, scientific experiments, and a series of spacewalks to complete a multi-year effort to upgrade batteries on the lab’s solar power truss.

Hurley and Behnken boarded their Dragon spacecraft Saturday and undocked from the space station, heading for an on-target splashdown Sunday in the Gulf of Mexico.

For more details, read our full story on the splashdown of the Dragon Endeavour spacecraft with Hurley and Behnken. Additional photos of the Crew Dragon’s splashdown, and views of Hurley and Behnken’s exit from the spacecraft and return to shore via helicopter, are posted below.

The photos also show numerous private vessels approaching the spacecraft after splashdown. NASA and SpaceX officials say they will reassess their security and ocean clearance policies before the next Crew Dragon splashdown.

Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls
Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls
Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls
Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls
Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls
Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls
Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls
Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls
Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls
Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls
Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls
Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls
Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls
Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls
Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls
Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls
Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls
Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls
Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls
Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls
Astronauts Bob Behnken (left) and Doug Hurley (right) inside the Crew Dragon spacecraft shortly after splashdown Sunday. Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls
Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls
Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls
Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls
Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls
Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls
Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls
Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls
Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls
Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls
Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

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Timeline for Falcon 9’s launch of the GPS 3 SV03 spacecraft

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket is set for liftoff from Cape Canaveral on Tuesday carrying the U.S. Air Force’s next GPS 3-series navigation satellite destined for an orbit more than 12,000 miles above Earth.

The 229-foot-tall (70-meter) rocket is poised for launch from pad 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida at 3:55:48 p.m. EDT (1955:48 GMT) Tuesday at the opening of a 15-minute launch window.

The Lockheed Martin-built GPS 3 SV03 satellite mounted atop the rocket is the third member of an upgraded generation of GPS navigation spacecraft, featuring higher-power signals that are more resilient to jamming, and additional broadcast frequencies to make the GPS network more interoperable with other navigation satellite fleets.

Unlike SpaceX’s previous launch of a GPS payload in 2018, the mission will fly a slightly different profile to reserve fuel for landing of the Falcon 9 booster. Read our mission preview story for more information.

The timeline below outlines the launch sequence for the Falcon 9 flight with the GPS 3 SV03 spacecraft.

See our Mission Status Center for details on the launch.

Data source: SpaceX

T-0:00:00: Liftoff

After the rocket’s nine Merlin engines pass an automated health check, hold-down clamps will release the Falcon 9 booster for liftoff from Complex 40.
After the rocket’s nine Merlin engines pass an automated health check, hold-down clamps will release the Falcon 9 booster for liftoff from pad 40.

T+0:01:11: Max Q

The Falcon 9 rocket reaches Max Q, the point of maximum aerodynamic pressure.
The Falcon 9 rocket reaches Max Q, the point of maximum aerodynamic pressure, a few seconds after surpassing the speed of sound.

T+0:02:31: MECO

The Falcon 9’s nine Merlin 1D engines shut down.
The Falcon 9’s nine Merlin 1D engines shut down.

T+0:02:35: Stage 1 Separation

The Falcon 9’s first stage separates from the second stage moments after MECO.
The Falcon 9’s first stage separates from the second stage moments after MECO.

T+0:02:42: First Ignition of Second Stage

The second stage Merlin 1D vacuum engine ignites for an approximately 6-minute burn to put the rocket and SES 9 into a preliminary parking orbit.
The second stage Merlin 1D vacuum engine ignites for a five-and-a-half-minute burn to put the rocket and GPS 3 SV03 into a preliminary parking orbit.

T+0:03:28: Fairing Jettison

The 5.2-meter (17.1-foot) diameter payload fairing jettisons once the Falcon 9 rocket ascends through the dense lower atmosphere. The 43-foot-tall fairing is made of two clamshell-like halves composed of carbon fiber with an aluminum honeycomb core.
The 5.2-meter (17.1-foot) diameter payload fairing jettisons once the Falcon 9 rocket ascends through the dense lower atmosphere. The 43-foot-tall fairing is made of two clamshell-like halves composed of carbon fiber with an aluminum honeycomb core.

T+0:06:45: First Stage Entry Burn Complete

The Falcon 9 rocket’s first stage descends back to Earth as its engines fire for the entry burn before landing on SpaceX’s drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean.

T+0:08:07: SECO 1

The second stage of the Falcon 9 rocket shuts down after reaching a preliminary low-altitude orbit. The upper stage and SES 9 begin a coast phase scheduled to last more than 18 minutes before the second stage Merlin vacuum engine reignites.
The second stage of the Falcon 9 rocket shuts down after reaching a preliminary orbit. The upper stage and GPS 3 SV03 begin a coast phase scheduled to about one hour before the second stage Merlin-Vacuum engine reignites.

T+0:06:45: First Stage Landing

The Falcon 9’s first stage booster lands on SpaceX’s drone ship “Just Read The Instructions” positioned in Atlantic Ocean northeast of Cape Canaveral.

T+1:03:28: Second Ignition of Second Stage

The Falcon 9's second stage Merlin engine restarts to propel the SES 9 communications satellite into a supersynchronous transfer orbit.
The Falcon 9’s second stage Merlin engine restarts to propel the GPS 3 SV01 navigation satellite into an elliptical transfer orbit ranging in altitude between about 250 miles (400 kilometers) and 12,550 miles (20,200 kilometers), with an inclination of 55 degrees.

T+1:04:13: SECO 2

The Merlin engine shuts down after a short burn to put the SES 10 satellite in the proper orbit for deployment.
The Merlin engine shuts down after a planned 45-second burn to put the GPS 3 SV03 satellite in the proper orbit for deployment.

T+1:29:14: GPS 3 SV03 Separation

The SES 9 satellite separates from the Falcon 9 rocket in an orbit with a predicted high point of about 39,300 kilometers (24,400 miles), a low point of 290 kilometers (180 miles) and an inclination of 28 degrees. Due to the decision to burn the second stage nearly to depletion, there is some slight uncertainty on the orbital parameters based on the exact performance of the launcher.
The GPS 3 SV03 satellite separates from the Falcon 9 rocket in an elliptical transfer orbit with an apogee, or high point, near the altitude of the GPS fleet, located around 12,550 miles (22,200 kilometers) above Earth.

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SpaceX gearing up for another launch of Starlink broadband satellites this week

File photo of a Falcon 9 launch. Credit: Stephen Clark/Spaceflight Now

For the third time in three weeks, SpaceX is preparing to launch a batch of satellites for the company’s Starlink Internet network from Florida’s Space Coast. Liftoff of a Falcon 9 rocket is set for Thursday afternoon from pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, weather permitting.

Liftoff of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket is scheduled for Thursday at 4:39 p.m. EDT (2039 GMT), and two commercial Earth-imaging microsatellites owned by BlackSky will accompany the Starlink payloads into orbit.

The launch Thursday will be SpaceX’s fourth Falcon 9 mission in less than four weeks, continuing a whirlwind cadence of launches that began May 30 with the liftoff of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft carrying NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken into orbit.

SpaceX launched another Falcon 9 rocket June 3 with 60 Starlink satellites, and most recently delivered another 58 Starlink payloads into orbit with a Falcon 9 rocket June 13 on a flight that also carried three commercial SkySat Earth-imaging satellites to space for Planet.

Thursday’s mission will be SpaceX’s 11th launch of 2020, and will be followed by another Falcon 9 launch scheduled June 30 from pad 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station with the U.S. Space Force’s next GPS navigation satellite.

The launch June 30 is scheduled for a 15-minute window opening at 3:55 p.m. EDT (1955 GMT).

SpaceX plans to test-fire the rockets for its next two missions this week. The previously-flown Falcon 9 rocket assigned to the Starlink/BlackSky launch is scheduled for a hold-down test-firing of its nine Merlin main engines Wednesday at pad 39A.

A test-firing of the brand new Falcon 9 booster for the GPS launch is scheduled later this week on pad 40, perhaps as soon as Thursday.

Forecasters predict typical summertime weather on Florida’s Space Coast for Thursday afternoon. There’s a 60 percent chance weather conditions could violate the Falcon 9’s liftoff weather constraints at launch time Thursday, according to an outlook issued Tuesday by the Space Force’s 45th Weather Squadron.

The weather pattern over the next several days on the Space Coast “will favor afternoon showers and thunderstorms with daytime heating and the prevailing offshore flow,” forecasters wrote Tuesday. “The east coast sea breeze will remain closer to the coast, and the west coast sea breeze will move across the peninsula. Mid to upper level westerly steering flow will also help push showers and storms, along with their associated anvils, back towards the east coast.”

The main weather concerns for Thursday’s launch opportunity will be with the potential for violating the cumulus cloud, anvil cloud and lightning rules.

There’s some slight improvement in the forecast for a backup launch opportunity Friday afternoon, when there’s a 40 percent chance of weather violating launch criteria.

Artist’s concept of a Starlink satellite with its solar array wing unfurled. Credit: SpaceX

SpaceX’s Starlink network is designed to provide low-latency, high-speed Internet service around the world. SpaceX has launched 538 flat-panel Starlink spacecraft since beginning full-scale deployment of the orbital network in May 2019, making the company the owner of the world’s largest fleet of satellites.

SpaceX says it needs 24 launches to provide Starlink Internet coverage over nearly all of the populated world, and 12 launches could enable coverage of higher latitude regions, such as Canada and the northern United States.

The Falcon 9 can loft up to 60 Starlink satellites — each weighing about a quarter-ton — on a single Falcon 9 launch. But launches with secondary payloads, such as BlackSky’s new Earth-imaging satellites, can carry fewer Starlinks to allow the rideshare passengers room to fit on the rocket.

The initial phase of the Starlink network will number 1,584 satellites, according to SpaceX’s regulatory filings with the Federal Communications Commission. But SpaceX plans launch thousands more satellites, depending on market demand, and the company has regulatory approval from the FCC to operate up to 12,000 Starlink relay nodes in low Earth orbit.

Elon Musk, SpaceX’s founder and CEO, says the Starlink network could earn revenue to fund the company’s ambition for interplanetary space travel, and eventually establish a human settlement on Mars.

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Photos: Falcon 9 and Crew Dragon blast off from pad 39A

SpaceX’s first human-rated Crew Dragon spacecraft took off Saturday from historic launch pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, launching NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken on the first piloted orbital space mission from a U.S. spaceport in nearly a decade.

Taking advantage of a break in the weather, the 215-foot-tall (65-meter) Falcon 9 rocket took off at 3:22:45 p.m. EDT (1922:45 GMT). Around 12 minutes later, the Falcon 9’s upper stage deployed the Crew Dragon spaceship into orbit.

These photos show the Falcon 9 launching atop nine Merlin 1D engines, each consuming kerosene and liquid oxygen propellants, producing a combined 1.7 million pounds of thrust.

Credit: Walter Scriptunas II / Spaceflight Now
Credit: Walter Scriptunas II / Spaceflight Now
Credit: Walter Scriptunas II / Spaceflight Now
Credit: Walter Scriptunas II / Spaceflight Now
Credit: Walter Scriptunas II / Spaceflight Now
Credit: Walter Scriptunas II / Spaceflight Now
Credit: Walter Scriptunas II / Spaceflight Now
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon spacecraft take off from the Kennedy Space Center on the first orbital spaceflight from U.S. soil since 2011. Credit: Walter Scriptunas II / Spaceflight Now
Credit: Walter Scriptunas II / Spaceflight Now
Credit: Walter Scriptunas II / Spaceflight Now

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aerospace astronomy bob behnken Commercial Crew Commercial Space Crew Dragon Crew Dragon Demo-2 doug hurley elon musk Expedition 63 falcon 9 Human Spaceflight international space station kennedy space center Launch Launch Pad 39A Mission Reports nasa News space station spacex X Home Page Highlight Below Right

Watch the astronauts give a tour of their new Crew Dragon spacecraft

Astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken give a video tour of their new SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft as they close in on a docking with the International Space Station on May 31, 2020.

Video: SpaceX.