Senior NASA officials have revealed that the agency expects the SpaceX Crew Dragon Demo-2 crew to remain aboard the International Space Station (ISS) until August.
During an online National Academies committees meeting, Acting Associate Administrator for NASA’s Human Exploration Operations, Ken Bowersox revealed that the Crew Dragon Endeavour is performing well docked to the ISS.
“The Dragon is doing very well, so we think it’s reasonable for the crew to stay up there a month or two,” said Bowersox.
The Crew Dragon Endeavour was launched aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 carrying NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken on May 30. Just under 19 hours later, the spacecraft successfully completed an autonomous docking with the orbiting laboratory.
Following a successful docking, Hurley and Behnken joined the station’s Expedition 63 crew for what NASA described as an “extended stay.” The exact length of the stay was to be determined by the performance of the spacecraft in orbit and the likelihood of favourable splashdown conditions off the coast of Florida.
“We didn’t prescribe the length of the Demo-2 mission until we got the crew on orbit and we could see the performance of the Dragon,” said Bowersox.
In addition to hinting at the likely length of the Demo-2 mission, Bowersox revealed that the agency hopes to utilise Behnken to assist fellow NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy with vital upgrades to the station. The work on the station will allow Behnken to add to his current tally of 6 spacewalks with a total time of 37 hours and 33 minutes in the vacuum of space.
“It is very likely that by the end of July, we will have conducted some spacewalks with Chris Cassidy and Bob Behnken, replaced some batteries on the ISS, and we’ll, about two months from now, start thinking about bringing Bob and Doug home,” said Bowersox.
Once they’re given the go-ahead, Hurley and Behnken will climb into the Crew Dragon Endeavour for their trip home. Following undocking and reentry, the spacecraft will splashdown off the coast of Florida ready to be met by recovery crews.