SpaceX Dragon: Why Elon Musk FEARS Crew Dragon's re-entry - 'My greatest concern'

’s Crew Dragon, or Dragon 2, made history on Saturday, March 2, when it remotely docked to the ISS over Earth. The Crew Dragon became the first commercial spacecraft designed for astronauts to dock with the orbital laboratory. The SpaceX spacecraft is also en route to pave the way for NASA to bring back rocket launches to American soil and away from Russia’s Soyuz rockets. However, before the Crew Dragon can take flight with humans onboard in July this year, the spacecraft faces its most challenging test yet.

On Friday, March 8, the Crew Dragon will undock from the ISS and deorbit for return to Earth.

The deorbit will see the SpaceX module hurtle back towards the planet and splash down in the Atlantic Ocean for retrieval.

But SpaceX CEO said shortly after the Crew Dragon’s launch re-entry into the atmosphere will be the toughest part of the journey.

He said post-launch: “I see hypersonic re-entry as probably my greatest concern.”

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Mr Musk said the “asymmetric” design of the Dragon 2 could cause the spacecraft to start rolling upon descent.

The Dragon is also fitted with new parachutes, which could deploy poorly but Mr Musk is hopeful the simulations ran before launch will prove correct.

He said: “Because the backshell is not symmetric in the way that Dragon 1 is, it’s not sort of the smooth, conic shape like Dragon 1.

“You’ve got the launch escape thruster pods that could potentially cause a roll in stability on re-entry.

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“But I think it’s unlikely, we’ve run simulations a thousand times, but this is a possibility.

“So I think that re-entry with the asymmetric backshell and the parachutes are new – will the parachutes deploy correctly?

“And then, will the system guide Dragon 2 to the right location and splash down safely?”

The Crew Dragon module is based on SpaceX Cargo Dragon, or Dragon 1, which is regularly deployed to deliver cargo to the ISS.

The spacecraft was developed under a £1.98billion ($2.6billion) commercial contract signed with in 2014.

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The ISS closed the hatch on the Crew Dragon today at 5.39pm GMT (UTC) as NASA and SpaceX prepare for return.

NASA said: “The Crew Dragon’s splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean will complete its five-day uncrewed Demo-1 mission dedicated to testing the company’s end-to-end system designed to return human launches to the International Space Station from the United States as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

“On board for the spacecraft’s return is a lifelike, anthropomorphic test device named Ripley, outfitted with sensors to provide data about potential effects on humans travelling in Crew Dragon for critical phases like ascent, entry and landing.”

Both SpaceX and NASA will cover the Dragon’s return with online livestream.

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