Crew-6 Home After Six Months in Space

Crew-6 Home After Six Months in Space

Another NASA mission to the International Space Station ended successfully just after midnight with the splashdown of Crew-6 off the coast of Jacksonville, FL. Two U.S. astronauts and one each from the United Arab Emirates and Russia spent 186 days in space, 184 of them on ISS conducting research and continuing the almost 23-year record of continuous permanent space station occupancy.

The nighttime reentry and landing of Crew Dragon Endeavour was captured in infrared images from NASA’s WB-57 aircraft and SpaceX’s recovery ship Megan and was also visible to the naked eye. NASA TV provided live coverage of the 12:17 am ET landing.

Crew-6 aboard Crew Dragon Endeavour streak across the sky on the way to splashdown off the coast of Jacksonville, FL, September 4, 2023. Photo Credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky

Crew Dragon Endeavour being lifted aboard SpaceX’s recovery ship Megan, September 4, 2023. Screengrab.

Aboard the spacecraft are NASA astronauts Steve Bowen and Woody Hoburg, UAE’s Sultan Alneyadi, and Roscosmos’s Andrey Fedyaev. Bowen made three spacewalks, two with Hoburg and one with Alneyadi. Alneyadi is the second UAE astronaut to visit ISS, the first to stay for a long-duration mission and the first to make a spacewalk.

Crew-6: Sultan Alneyadi (UAE), Woody Hoburg (NASA), Steve Bowen (NASA), Andrey Fedyaev (Roscosmos). Credit: NASA

SpaceX has four reusable Crew Dragon capsules for taking people to orbit: Endeavour, Resilience, Endurance, and Freedom. This was the fourth flight of Endeavour.

Endeavour was the first Crew Dragon to deliver a crew to the ISS on the Demo-2 flight in 2020, the historic “Bob and Doug” mission that restored the U.S. ability to launch people into orbit 9 years after the space shuttle program was terminated. The U.S. had to rely on Russia to ferry crews to and from ISS during that gap.

Endeavour then took four astronauts to ISS for NASA on Crew-2 in 2021 and a private astronaut flight, Axiom-1, in 2022.

Crew Dragon was developed by SpaceX through a Public-Private Partnership where NASA and SpaceX shared development costs and NASA agreed to purchase at least 6 flights. SpaceX retains ownership of the system and was expected to find non-NASA customers to close the business case. It has. This was SpaceX’s seventh flight for NASA and it also has flown three private astronaut flights (Inspiration4, Axiom-1 and Axiom-2) with more on the books. NASA has now bought a total of 14 flights from SpaceX because Boeing’s competitor, Starliner, is years behind schedule and has not flown anyone to space yet. The plan was for one from SpaceX and one from Boeing every year.

SpaceX launched Crew-6’s replacement, Crew-7, last week. The ISS has been permanently occupied by international crews rotating on 4-6 month schedules since November 2000.

The International Space Station. Credit: NASA

During a post-splashdown press conference early this morning, NASA Commercial Crew Program Manager Steve Stich said Endeavour will fly again just 5 months from now in February, taking Crew-8 to ISS.  SpaceX’s Benji Reed said they are targeting 15 flights per capsule. “Obviously we need to absolutely make sure that it’s safe,” but all of the data so far indicates it’s possible. SpaceX is building a fifth capsule as well.

Tonight was a success not only for SpaceX’s human spaceflight efforts, but the company set a new record for number of launches in a single year. About an hour before Crew-6 splashed down, SpaceX conducted its 62nd launch in 2023, putting another group of Starlink satellites in orbit for its satellite Internet system.

User Comments has the right (but not the obligation) to monitor the comments and to remove any materials it deems inappropriate.  We do not post comments that include links to other websites since we have no control over that content nor can we verify the security of such links.