The NASA astronauts who travelled to the International Space Station in SpaceX’s first crewed flight in May are expected to return to Earth on August 2 after spending two months in orbit, a NASA spokesman said on Friday.
US astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley will gear up for the final benchmark test of SpaceX’s so-called Demo-2 mission: A coordinated splashdown somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean that will cap NASA’s first crewed mission from US soil in nearly 10 years.
Since 2011, when the US space shuttle programme ended, NASA astronauts have had to hitch rides into orbit on board Russia’s Soyuz spacecraft.
Boeing Co, which is producing its own launch system in competition with SpaceX, is expected to fly its CST-100 Starliner vehicle with astronauts on board for the first time next year. NASA has awarded nearly $8bn combined to SpaceX and Boeing for development of their rival rockets.
Behnken is gearing up for his final spacewalk on July 21 before prepping with Hurley to depart the space station, NASA said. Mission planners on Earth will be watching weather forecasts to calculate the precise time and location of Crew Dragon’s splashdown, the NASA spokesman said, adding the date could slip.