A nail-biting time for SpaceX flight controllers is underway as they wait to see if Dragon’s controlled six-minute re-entry burn has been successful and if it will put it on the correct trajectory for a planned splashdown in an area 500 miles off of the coast of Mexico. If all goes well, this event is expected to take place at around 2.02 Eastern – or less than 30 mins from now.
A lot has to go right as the Dragon vehicle systems and elements are undergoing tests for the first time in space. These include structural integrity of the pressure vessel, precision firing of the vehicle’s 18 Draco thruster engines, telemetry, guidance, navigation and control systems, the heat shield, and parachutes. SpaceX re-iterates this is also the first attempt by a commercial company to recover a spacecraft reentering from low-Earth orbit, a feat so far only performed by 5 nations – the United States, Russia, China, Japan, and India – and the European Space Agency.
What SpaceX hopes to see shortly – though not quite this close to land. The Dragon drop test from earlier this year. (SpaceX)