SpaceX Dragon cargo craft is set to undock and return to Earth
Concluding its third successful commercial trip to the International Space Station, a SpaceX Dragon cargo craft is preparing to detach and make its journey back to Earth.
Sponsored by Axiom Space, a company based in Houston, the spacecraft departed from the outpost on Wednesday morning and embarked on a 47-hour free flight to return to Earth. It is expected to splashdown off the coast of Florida on Friday.
The commander, Michael López-Alegría, along with his co-pilot, Walter Villadei from Italy, flier Marcus Wandt from Sweden, and Alper Gezeravci from Turkey, were securely fastened into the SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule. At 9:20 a.m. EST, they disengaged from the station’s forward port and observed a sequence of independent thruster firings to depart from the area.
“We trust that you all had an enjoyable experience on the station, and we eagerly anticipate the opportunity to greet your happy expressions in person,” communicated a SpaceX flight controller over the radio as the Crew Dragon “Freedom” departed.
Two days later, they arrived at the lab and were greeted by Moghbeli, O’Hara, European Space Agency astronaut Andreas Mogensen, Japanese astronaut Satoshi Furukawa, and cosmonauts Oleg Kononenko, Nikolai Chub, and Konstantin Borisov.
The initial plan for the Axiom fliers was to come back to Earth on February 3rd, after 14 days of studying microgravity and engaging with the public. However, unfavorable weather conditions at the designated splashdown locations in the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean caused several delays, resulting in the mission being prolonged by approximately one week.
The orbit and trajectory of the station required the Ax-3 crew to spend almost two days in a small single-cabin ferry ship in order to reach their intended landing site.
If everything goes according to plan, SpaceX’s flight controllers will be in charge of a rocket firing on Friday morning at 7:42 a.m. The target location for the splashdown is the east coast of Florida, and it is expected to occur at 8:30 a.m.
A group from SpaceX will be ready to transport the capsule onto a retrieval vessel. Following preliminary health evaluations, the team will be transported to land via helicopter.
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