SpaceX: How long will Demo-2 stay on the ISS? When will NASA astronauts return to Earth?

SpaceX’s Crew Dragon docked to the space station at 3.16pm BST (10.16am EDT) today (May 31) delivering astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley into orbit. NASA’s astronauts then entered the ISS after 6.02pm BST (1.02pm EDT) and were greeted by NASA’s Chriss Cassidy and Russia’s Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner. The mission, a joint partnership between NASA and SpaceX, saw the first launch of astronauts into orbit aboard a privately built spacecraft.

Upon arrival, NASA’s astronauts fielded questions from the ground, during a televised conference.

Mr Hurley said: “It’s obviously been our honour to be just a small part of this.

“We have to give credit to SpaceX, the Commercial Crew programme and, of course, NASA

“It’s great to get the United States back in the crewed launch business and we’re just really glad to be onboard this incredibly magnificent complex”

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The Crew Dragon launched on Saturday, May 30, from the Kennedy Space Center Launch Complex 39A in Florida, US.

NASA’s astronauts then coasted through space for about 19 hours before reaching the ISS some 262 miles above Earth.

Despite the thrill of the ride, Mr Hurley said the two astronauts still got about seven hours of sleep on the way up.

The astronauts will now get to work on the ISS, joining the ranks of ISS Expedition 63.

While in orbit, they will help their fellow astronauts in maintaining the station as well as carry out scientific experiments and tests.

We have to give credit to SpaceX, the Commercial Crew programme and, of course, NASA

Doug Hurley, NASA astronaut

How long will Demo-2 stay on the ISS?

Saturday’s launch to the ISS is only the first half of NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 test flight.

The Crew Dragon will next have to safely ferry the astronauts back to Earth.

The exact duration of the mission is yet to be determined but the Demo-2 astronauts will remain in orbit between one and four months.

This particular Dragon can stay docked to the ISS for 110 days and fully operational Dragons will stay for nearly twice as long.

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NASA said: “Although the Crew Dragon being used for this flight test can stay in orbit about 110 days, this specific mission duration will be determined once on station based on the readiness of the next commercial crew launch.

“The operational Crew Dragon spacecraft will be capable of staying for at least 210 days as a NASA requirement.”

Once the in-orbit segment of the mission is concluded, the Dragon will undock from the ISS and head back towards Earth.

The spacecraft will then splash down in the Atlantic Ocean where it will be recovered by SpaceX’s teams.

NASA said: “The Demo-2 mission will be the final major step before NASA’s Commercial Crew Program certifies Crew Dragon for operational, long-duration missions to the space station.”

Speaking of the successful launch on Saturday, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said: “I’m really quite overcome with emotion on this day, so it’s kind of hard to talk, frankly.

“It’s been 18 years working towards this goal, so it’s hard to believe that it’s happened.”

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine also told the astronauts “welcome home”.

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