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Tropical storm may delay SpaceX crew’s return to Earth this weekend

SpaceX Crew Dragon
The SpaceX Crew Dragon docked to the International Space Station during a spacewalk conducted by astronauts Bob Behnken and Chris Cassidy.
(NASA / Associated Press)

A tropical storm heading toward Florida could delay this weekend’s planned return of the first SpaceX crew.

On Wednesday, SpaceX and NASA cleared the Dragon crew capsule to depart the International Space Station and head home after a two-month flight.

Because NASA test pilots Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken will aim for the Atlantic or Gulf of Mexico just off Florida’s coast, the wind and waves must be relatively calm. It will be the first astronaut splashdown in 45 years.

Managers were targeting a Sunday splashdown, right around the time rough weather is expected to hit Florida. Tropical Storm Isaias was forming in the eastern Caribbean on Wednesday evening.

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NASA’s commercial crew program manager, Steve Stich, said flight controllers would closely monitor the weather and, if necessary, keep the astronauts at the space station until conditions improve.

“You have to remember this is a test flight,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said from Kennedy Space Center. “If the weather isn’t good or the sea states aren’t good, we’re going to take our time bringing Bob and Doug home. Our No. 1 highest priority is their safety.”

A month after getting approval to build aerospace parts at the Port of L.A., SpaceX told the port it wanted to terminate the agreement.

Elon Musk’s SpaceX company made history May 30 by launching Hurley and Behnken into space. It marked the first launch of NASA astronauts from the U.S. in nearly a decade and also the first time a private company sent people into orbit.

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SpaceX is already preparing to launch a second crew to the space station at the end of September.

NASA wants six weeks between the splashdown and the launch of the next Dragon crew for capsule inspections and reviews.


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