WASHINGTON — A Crew Dragon spacecraft splashed down of the coast of Florida early Sept. 4, bringing back a crew from the United States, United Arab Emirates and Russia who spent six months on the International Space Station.
The Crew Dragon capsule Endeavour splashed down in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast from Jacksonville, Florida, at 12:17 a.m. Eastern, completing the Crew-6 mission. The spacecraft had undocked from the ISS at 7:05 a.m. Eastern Sept. 3.
Onboard the spacecraft were NASA astronauts Stephen Bowen and Woody Hoburg, who served as commander and pilot, respectively, of Crew-6. Also on board were mission specialists Sultan Alneyadi of the UAE and Andrey Fedyaev of Roscosmos.
The four spent 186 days in space, starting with their launch March 2 on a SpaceX Falcon 9. Their return was delayed two days to wait for favorable weather conditions in the splashdown zones, which had been affected by Hurricane Idalia.
The reentry and splashdown went according to plan, NASA and SpaceX officials said during a briefing after splashdown. On the Crew-5 return in March, one of two drogue parachutes was slower to inflate than the other, a topic that was reviewed and cleared ahead of the Crew-7 launch Aug. 26.
“The chutes looked nominal, really great,” Benji Reed, senior director of human spaceflight programs at SpaceX, said at the briefing after splashdown. “We’re not tracking any anomalies or anything that looks out of character.”
Endeavour, which completed its fourth flight with Crew-6, will be refurbished for use on Crew-8, scheduled for February 2024. The five-month turnaround is typical for Crew Dragon spacecraft, said Steve Stich, NASA commercial crew program manager. One area of focus will be propellant valves, he said, looking for any corrosion that was seen on a cargo Dragon mission launched in June.
NASA has certified Crew Dragon for five flights, but SpaceX expects to be able to reuse each spacecraft up to 15 times. “All of the data so far continues to indicate that’s possible,” Reed said, although it will require “a certain amount of additional refurbishment” for the vehicles.
Endeavour is one of four Crew Dragon spacecraft in operation. SpaceX is building a fifth vehicle that is expected to make its first flight in the near future. “That new capsule is coming along well,” Reed said. Its first mission “will be in the next couple of flights or so” but does not have a specific mission assigned to it yet.