NASA has revealed that the SpaceX Demo-2 Crew Dragon spacecraft is performing better than expected while docked to the International Space Station (ISS).
During a NASA livestream to discuss upcoming ISS spacewalks and the status of the SpaceX Demo-2 mission, the agency’s Commercial Crew Program Manager Steve Stich revealed that Endeavour (the name given to the Demo-2 Crew Dragon by its crew) was performing better than expected.
“The vehicle is [performing] extremely well as we put it through its paces,” said Stich. “We’ve been watching the power generation of Dragon and Dragon is generating more power than we expected.”
Prior to the launch of the Demo-2 mission, NASA identified the performance of the spacecraft’s solar arrays as a potential limiting factor for how long it could stay in orbit. As a result, the better than expected performance will allow the Demo-2 crew of Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken to remain aboard the orbiting laboratory until early to mid-August.
With confirmation that the demonstration mission could safely be extended, NASA will go ahead with plans to utilize Doug and Bob for several upcoming spacewalks to perform station maintenance and upgrades. Bob Behnken specifically has extensive spacewalk experience and according to Stich, the value of his availability for these activities cannot be understated.
While aboard the station, the Demo-2 crew has been and will continue to conduct testing of the Dragon spacecraft. In addition to data exchange testing, Bob, Doug, and fellow NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy have also tested the spacecraft’s Safe Haven capability, which would allow the crew to hide out in Dragon for up to 24 hours if necessary.
Additional testing will follow in the coming weeks including a habitability test set to be conducted around July 4. The test will examine how a crew of four could sleep and operate in the spacecraft during a mission. As only three NASA astronauts are currently aboard the station, this will likely necessitate one of the two Russian cosmonauts aboard the station assisting with the test. This, however, is yet to be confirmed.
Although no specific date has yet been revealed, Stich estimated the Doug and Bob would likely return aboard Endeavour no earlier than August 2.