A video from SpaceX shows the company’s Crew Dragon capsule plunging toward the Gulf of Mexico, then unfurling a series of parachutes to slow the spaceship carrying two NASA astronauts from 350 mph to a relatively gentle 15 mph for splashdown Sunday.
Tracking footage of Crew Dragon’s descent, parachute deployments and splashdown pic.twitter.com/pzbm1iXCC6
— SpaceX (@SpaceX) August 4, 2020
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.
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