SpaceX astronauts fly freely in orbit for a day before heading home

  • SpaceX astronauts on the Ax-1 ISS mission will return Monday, NASA’s head of spaceflight said.
  • Bad weather conditions delayed the return of the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft.
  • NASA said it doesn’t expect the delay to affect another manned orbital mission on Wednesday.

SpaceX astronauts returning from the International Space Station (ISS) will spend a day flying freely in orbit before diving into the atmosphere and landing in Florida waters, CNN reported.

Kathy Lueders, director of NASA’s human spaceflight programs, saying on Friday that the spacecraft will attempt to undock from the ISS on Sunday.

The astronauts flew to the ISS on April 8 as part of the privately funded Axiom Mission 1, also known as Ax-1.

“We want about 2 days between #Ax1 return and release of Crew-4 for @POT & @SpaceX to complete staged recovery asset and data reviews. In this case, 39 hours between operations gives us enough time to finish the job. If necessary, we will adjust the launch of Crew-4 to make sure we are ready.” Lueders said in a tweet.

Lueders also said the space agency was watching the weather closely after the trip home was delayed by a week due to poor conditions.

The mission was supposed to last eight days, but the delay means the astronauts are now expected to land on Monday.

NASA has been planning another SpaceX manned orbital flight, called Crew-4, to launch on Wednesday. Lueders said the Ax-1’s late return will have no impact on the Crew-4 launch date.

Ax-1 includes a crew of four on the first fully private flight, which took place aboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft.

Commanding the mission is Axiom President and retired astronaut Michael López-Alegría. The crew also includes businessmen Larry Connor, Mark Pathy and Eytan Stibbe, who reportedly paid $55 million each for the flight.

Axiom is expected to launch a second commercial mission to the ISS in late 2022 or spring 2023. Record-breaking astronaut Peggy Whitson will serve as commander and John Shoffner will act as mission pilot.

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