On the early morning today around 12:17AM, NASA’s SpaceX Crew-6 mission safely landed on earth. In this mission four-member international crew splashed down in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Jacksonville, Florida, after 186 days in space.
Welcome home, #Crew6!— NASA (@NASA) September 4, 2023
After six months of science and discovery aboard the @Space_Station, our Crew-6 team splashed down at 12:17am ET (0417 UTC) and will be picked up shortly by recovery teams. pic.twitter.com/zf635dfUKF
I Know many of you are curious to know that how they people are safely returned from space? What technology is used in this mission? Are you curious to know, through this post we will clear some of your doubts.
What Technology Did NASA Used in SpaceX Crew-6?
In this mission NASA used variety of technologies to return the SpaceX Crew-6 safely to Earth. These technologies included:
1. The SpaceX 6 Dragon spacecraft:
The SpaceX Dragon spacecraft is a crewed capsule that is designed to transport astronauts to and from the ISS. This Dragon spacecraft is equipped with a variety of safety features, including parachutes, airbags, and a heat shield.
2. SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket
In this mission SpaceX Falcon rocket is next important part which is used to launch the Dragon spacecraft into orbit. The Falcon 9 rocket is a reusable rocket that is designed to be safe and reliable.
3. The SpaceX Crew Dragon Automatic Flight Termination System (AFTS)
This computer system is designed to automatically terminate the Dragon spacecraft’s flight if there is a problem. The AFTS is a critical safety feature that helps to ensure the safe return of the Dragon spacecraft.
The AFTS is made up of two main components:
1. A ground-based system :
The ground-based system monitors the launch and flight of the Crew Dragon spacecraft. If the ground-based system detects a problem, it can signal the onboard system to initiate a termination.
2. The onboard system:
The onboard system is a computer programmed with rules based on the spacecraft’s altitude, velocity, and trajectory that define when the Crew Dragon spacecraft should be terminated.
If the onboard system determines that the Crew Dragon spacecraft is in danger, it will automatically initiate a termination.
The AFTS has been tested extensively and is considered a very reliable system. It has never been activated on a Crew Dragon spacecraft, but it has been activated on other SpaceX rockets.
scenarios that could trigger the AFTS:
Here are some of the scenarios that could trigger the AFTS to terminate the Crew Dragon spacecraft:
- The spacecraft deviates from its planned trajectory by more than a certain amount.
- The spacecraft experiences a sudden loss of thrust.
- The spacecraft’s heat shield is damaged.
- The spacecraft’s cabin pressure drops below a certain level.
- The spacecraft’s computers malfunction.
The AFTS is a last resort safety system. It is designed to be used only in the most critical situations. The Crew Dragon spacecraft has a number of other safety features that are designed to prevent problems from occurring in the first place. However, the AFTS provides an additional layer of protection in the event that something does go wrong.
4. SpaceX Dragon Entry, Descent, and Landing Control (EDL) system
SpaceX Dragon Entry, Descent, and Landing Control (EDL) system is an intricate network comprised of numerous technologies used to safely land Dragon spacecraft on either Earth or Mars.
Components included within its EDL system include:
1. Heat Shield:
The heat shield serves to slow the spacecraft and protect it from atmospheric entry temperatures, acting like an ablative material that can handle extreme temperatures. PICA-X material makes up this protection layer.
Parachutes are used to slow the spacecraft down further and ensure its safe landing on Earth. The Dragon spacecraft features three parachutes: two main parachutes and a drogue parachute.
3. SuperDraco Thrusters:
SuperDraco thrusters are used to make small adjustments in spacecraft’s trajectory during landing and act as launch escape systems in case there are problems during launch.
4. Guidance, Navigation and Control (GNC) System:
This system serves to guide a spacecraft during entry, descent and landing by tracking its position and velocity using various sensors; using that information it then makes necessary adjustments in its trajectory.
EDL system of Dragon is an integral component of its spacecraft design and will play an essential part in SpaceX’s ability to transport people and cargo safely to Mars. It ensures safe landing of spacecraft when returning back from orbit or Mars surface landing sites, helping ensure successful journeys for passengers as well as cargo.
Here is an in-depth look at the Dragon EDL system:
- Entry: The Dragon spacecraft enters Earth’s atmosphere at approximately 17,500 miles per hour (28,163 kilometers per hour). A heat shield helps slow and protect it during atmospheric entry temperatures of up to 3,000deg Fahrenheit (1.6649 degrees Celsius). As soon as the Dragon spacecraft has sufficiently decelerated, parachutes are activated. These aid in further slowing it down for safe landing – approximately 15mph (24kph).
- Landing: As part of its EDL system, landing is the final stage. SuperDraco thrusters use microadjustments on spacecraft trajectory during landing to help make adjustments and cushion its impacts during touchdown.
The Dragon EDL system is an intricate and sophisticated mechanism essential to landing Dragon spacecraft safely and successfully on Mars, as tested extensively before finally making its first debut during SpaceX’s Mars Sample Return mission later this year. Although yet unproven on that planet’s surface, we expect its debut sometime during that mission’s duration.
NASA made use of various ground systems as part of their efforts to facilitate the return of SpaceX Crew-6. These systems included:
- The SpaceX Mission Control Center is located in Hawthorne, California. Mission Control Center staff monitor the Dragon spacecraft’s flight path and ensure its return safely back to Earth.
- The SpaceX Landing Support Vessels, which are ships that are used to recover the Dragon spacecraft after it splashes down in the ocean.
- The SpaceX Recovery Team, which is responsible for retrieving the Dragon spacecraft and its crew after it splashes down in the ocean.
SpaceX Crew-6’s successful return is a tribute to both NASA and SpaceX teams for working collaboratively on this mission, as well as to the technologies employed. It exemplifies both safety and reliability.