Inspiration4 crew scheduled to return from space today

In a tweet yesterday, SpaceX announced that Dragon Resilience, carrying the Inspiration4 crew, has a scheduled splashdown time after orbiting the Earth since Wednesday.

Unlike other modern capsule returns, Dragon lands in water rather than land, similar to the method NASA astronauts used in the Apollo era. Splashdowns can happen in two regions of the coast of Florida; either in the Gulf of Mexico or in the Atlantic. SpaceX has selected the Atlantic for the Inspiration4 mission.

The private space company said online Friday in a tweet that the Inspiration4 crew is scheduled to splash down at 7:06 p.m. EDT.

Since the Inspiration4 mission orbits considerably higher, past the International Space Station and Hubble telescope, the capsule has already made an altitude drop in preparation for return. According to SpaceX, on Friday night the spacecraft made two burns to reduce its altitude to about 365 km (226 miles) in order to have an optimal return position.

Tonight, shortly before landing, the Dragon vehicle will jettison what SpaceX calls the trunk—a large cylindrical compartment that sits below the gumdrop-shaped crew capsule. The trunk is the only piece of the spacecraft that isn’t reusable and will burn up in the atmosphere.

SpaceX’s first Crew Dragon parachutes to a splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean during the uncrewed Demo-1 mission on March 8, 2019. Credit: NASA

Once the truck is jettisoned the capsule will begin to fire its thrusters to drop out of orbit. When low enough in Earth’s atmosphere parachutes will deploy, ending the Inspiration4 mission with a safe splashdown in the sea.

SpaceX will be live for the splashdown. Be sure to tune in.

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