The docking followed the first successful launch of Crew Dragon with astronauts on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket at 3:22 p.m. EDT Saturday from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space in Florida, the same launch pad used for the Apollo 11 Moon landing mission.
After reaching orbit, Behnken and Hurley named their Crew Dragon spacecraft “Endeavour” as a tribute to the first space shuttle each astronaut had flown aboard. Endeavour also flew the penultimate mission of the Space Shuttle Program, launching in May 2011 from the same pad.
This flight, known as NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2, is an end-to-end test to validate the SpaceX crew transportation system, including launch, in-orbit, docking and landing operations. This is SpaceX’s second spaceflight test of its Crew Dragon and its first test with astronauts aboard, and will pave the way for its certification for regular crew flights to the station as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.
Now that NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley have safely arrived aboard the International Space Station following their launch on NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 mission May 30, NASA Television and the agency’s website are airing a news conference.
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine
Mark Geyer, director, NASA’s Johnson Space Center
Kenneth Todd, deputy manager, International Space Station Program
Steve Stich, deputy manager, NASA Commercial Crew Program
The crew members first opened the hatch between the space station and Dragon Endeavour at 1:02 p.m. EDT, allowing Hurley and Behnken to enter their new home in space as members of Expedition 63. The five crew members will hold a welcome ceremony next, after which the continuous coverage of the mission that began prior to launch will conclude.
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine will hold a news conference at 3:15 p.m. EDT from NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston to discuss the successful docking of the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft. Johnson Center Director Mark Geyer, International Space Station Program Deputy Manager Kenneth Todd, NASA Commercial Crew Program Deputy Manager Steve Stich, and NASA Astronaut Kjell Lindgren also will participate in the live media briefing broadcast on NASA Television and the agency’s website.
It is the second arrival and autonomous docking to the International Space Station for a Crew Dragon spacecraft and the first time any commercially built spacecraft has delivered astronauts to the orbiting laboratory.
Known as NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2, the mission is an end-to-end test flight to validate the SpaceX crew transportation system, including launch, in-orbit, docking and landing operations and pave the way for its certification for regular crew flights to the station as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.
For operational missions, Crew Dragon will be able to launch as many as four crew members and carry more than 220 pounds of cargo, enabling the expansion of the inhabitants of the space station, increasing the time dedicated to research in the unique microgravity environment, and returning more science back to Earth.
The Crew Dragon arrived at the station’s Harmony port, docking at 10:16 a.m. EDT while the spacecraft were flying about 262 miles above the northern border of China and Mongolia. Following soft capture, 12 hooks were closed to complete a hard capture at 10:27 a.m. Teams now will begin conducting standard leak checks and pressurization between the spacecraft in preparation for hatch opening scheduled for approximately 12:45 p.m.
NASA Television and the agency’s website are continuing to provide live continuous coverage of the agency’s SpaceX Demo-2 mission.
Behnken and Hurley made history Saturday as they became the first Americans to launch on an American rocket from American soil to the space station in nearly a decade. Their successful docking completed many of the test objectives of the SpaceX Demo-2 mission, and the rest will be completed as the spacecraft operates as part of the space station, then at the conclusion of its mission undocks and descends for a parachute landing in the Atlantic Ocean.
Hurley and Behnkhen received their wake-up call at 4:45 a.m. EDT with the song “Planet Caravan” by Black Sabbath. This morning they shared a tour inside the spacecraft, which they named Dragon Endeavour. Next they will conduct a near field manual piloting test to demonstrate their ability to control the spacecraft should an issue with the spacecraft’s automated flight arise.
The spacecraft will begin its close approach to the station at about 8:27 a.m. and is scheduled to dock at 10:29 a.m. Crew Dragon is designed to dock autonomously, but the crews onboard the spacecraft and the space station will diligently monitor the performance of the spacecraft as it approaches and docks to the forward port of the station’s Harmony module.
As SpaceX’s final flight test, the Demo-2 mission will validate all aspects of its crew transportation system, including the Crew Dragon spacecraft, spacesuits, Falcon 9 launch vehicle, launch pad LC-39A, and operations capabilities before NASA’s Commercial Crew Program certifies Crew Dragon for operational, long-duration missions to the space station.
Behnken and Hurley will work with SpaceX mission control to verify the spacecraft is performing as intended by testing the environmental control system, the displays and control system, and by maneuvering the thrusters, among other things.
The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley aboard the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft launched from Kennedy Space Center’s historic Launch Pad 39A at 3:22 p.m. EDT. NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 mission to the International Space Station is a critical final flight test of the SpaceX crew transportation system.
Today’s launch also marks the start of the commercial crew era of U.S. human spaceflight.
“What a great day for NASA, what a great day for SpaceX, and what a great day for the United States of America,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “It’s been nine years since we’ve launched American astronauts on American rockets from American soil, and now we have done it again.”
“I’d like to just acknowledge the incredible work of the people at SpaceX and NASA and everyone who created this technology – what has culminated in this incredible launch today, getting astronauts back to orbit after almost a decade,” said Elon Musk, SpaceX chief engineer. “We need to bring them back safely, and we need to repeat these missions and have this be a regular occurrence. There’s a lot of work to do.”
The countdown proceeded smoothly throughout the day, with the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon spacecraft in good health and the astronauts ready to fly. The wild card – weather — was out of the teams’ control. Today’s liftoff was the mission’s second launch attempt; the first try, on Wednesday, May 27, ended up rescheduled due to unfavorable weather conditions.
At first, today appeared to be setting up with the same issues: rain, electricity in the atmosphere, cumulus clouds.
“We looked at the weather. It didn’t look great, but we looked at the different options that were out there, and we realized how important it was to step through this carefully, weigh the readiness of the hardware and very carefully assess the situation, and be able to clear the gates and milestones along the way,” said Kathy Lueders, manager of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.
Late in the countdown, Launch Weather Officer Mike McAleenan with the U.S. Air Force 45th Weather Squadron reported conditions were “go.” The remaining countdown milestones ticked by quickly, and at 3:22 p.m. EDT, the Falcon 9’s nine Merlin engines ignited. NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 mission was underway.
The Falcon 9 and Crew Dragon performed well on the climb to orbit, and the spacecraft separated from the rocket on time, about 12 minutes into the flight.
“Dragon, chief engineer on Dragon-to-Ground,” SpaceX Chief Engineer Bala Ramamurthy called up to the crew following Crew Dragon spacecraft separation. “Bob, Doug, on behalf of the entire launch team, thanks for flying with Falcon 9 today. We hope you enjoyed the ride and wish you a great mission.”
Behnken replied, “Thanks, Bala. Congratulations to you and the entire team on the first human ride for Falcon 9. And it was incredible. Appreciate all the hard work and thanks for the great ride to space.”
“Proud of you guys and the rest of the team,” Hurley added. “Thank you so much for what you’ve done for us today, putting America back into low-Earth orbit from the Florida coast.”
Having arrived in orbit, Crew Dragon began a 19-hour pursuit of the station, beginning with a phase burn and the mission’s first manual flight test.
“Bob and Doug are already up there accomplishing a lot of the goals of our test mission,” Lueders said. “They got to do their far-field [manual flight] demonstrations. They got to feel what it’s like to use the touchscreens in zero-G. They got to check out all the different parts of the system and liberate their zero-G indicator.”
Crew Dragon will perform a series of phasing maneuvers to gradually approach and autonomously dock with the International Space Station on Sunday, May 31, at approximately 10:29 a.m. EDT.
After a successful docking, hatches between the two spacecraft will be opened at about 12:45 p.m. Crew members Douglas Hurley and Robert Behnken will be welcomed aboard the International Space Station and become members of the Expedition 63 crew. Behnken and Hurley will perform tests on Crew Dragon in addition to conducting research and other tasks with the space station crew.
“Today onboard the [station], the three crew members, Chris Cassidy, Ivan Vagner and Anatoly Ivanishin, are getting ready to have their additional crewmates onboard,” said Kirk Shireman, manager of NASA’s International Space Station Program. “I know they’re very, very excited. There’s lots of work to be done on ISS and I know Bob and Doug, together with the folks on orbit, are really ready to get busy.”
Behnken and Hurley spent years training and taking part in the development of the SpaceX crew transportation system prior to today’s launch.
“I have never seen a crew so calm and focused leading up to a launch as these two were,” said NASA Chief Astronaut Pat Forrester, who has lived with the Demo-2 crew in quarantine inside Kennedy Astronaut Crew Quarters for the past several days. Forrester acknowledged their training and experience certainly played a role in their demeanor, but he believes their calmness also derived from confidence in the teams.
“I really think it’s a demonstration of the trust they had both in the NASA team and the SpaceX team to get them safely to orbit,” he said.
Demo-2 is SpaceX’s final test flight to validate its crew transportation system, including the Crew Dragon, Falcon 9, launch pad and operations capabilities. During the mission, the crew and SpaceX mission controllers will verify the performance of the spacecraft’s environmental control system, displays and control system, maneuvering thrusters, autonomous docking capability, and more.
The Crew Dragon being used for this flight test can stay in orbit about 110 days, and the 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 in orbit for at least 210 days as a NASA requirement.
At the conclusion of the mission, Behnken and Hurley will board Crew Dragon, which will then autonomously undock, depart the space station, and re-enter Earth’s atmosphere. Upon splashdown off Florida’s Atlantic coast, the crew will be picked up by the SpaceX recovery ship and returned to the dock at Cape Canaveral.
“I am so grateful and proud of our NASA and SpaceX team,” Lueders said. “We’re going to stay vigilant until we bring them safely home.”
NASA’s Commercial Crew Program is working with SpaceX and Boeing to design, build, test and operate safe, reliable and cost-effective human transportation systems to low-Earth orbit. Both companies are focused on test missions, including abort system demonstrations and crew flight tests, ahead of regularly flying crew missions to the space station. Both companies’ crewed flights will be the first times in history NASA has sent astronauts to space on systems owned, built, tested and operated by private companies.
The SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft carrying NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley on their way to the International Space Station has safely reached orbit, and the nosecone has been opened.
At 4:09 p.m. EDT, the Crew Dragon will conduct a phase burn to put it on its trajectory to meet up with the space station tomorrow for docking at 10:29 a.m.
At 4:55 p.m., Behnken and Hurley will take control of Crew Dragon for the first of two manual flight tests, demonstrating their ability to control the spacecraft should an issue with the spacecraft’s automated flight ever arise.
At 5:55 p.m., the crew members may broadcast an update from the Crew Dragon.
At 6:30 p.m., the NASA Administrator will host a postlaunch news conference from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. Participants in the briefing will be:
Crew Dragon will perform a series of phasing maneuvers to gradually approach and autonomously dock with the International Space Station on Sunday, May 31, at approximately 10:29 a.m. EDT. Click here to see a high-resolution version of the graphic at right, explaining the Crew Dragon’s approach to the station.
After a successful docking, hatches between the two spacecraft will be opened at 12:45 p.m. Crew members Douglas Hurley and Robert Behnken will be welcomed aboard the International Space Station and become members of the Expedition 63 crew, joining astronaut Chris Cassidy and cosmonauts Ivan Vagner and Anatoly Ivanishin. Behnken and Hurley will perform tests on Crew Dragon in addition to conducting research and other tasks with the space station crew.
Twelve minutes into the flight of the SpaceX Crew Dragon carrying NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley, the spacecraft separated from the Falcon 9 rocket’s second stage, signaling the end of the climb to space. NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 mission, a final end-to-end flight test of the company’s crew transportation system, is underway with the return of human spaceflight capability to U.S. soil.
The Crew Dragon, Behnken and Hurley are embarking on a 19-hour pursuit of the International Space Station.
“Thanks for flying on Falcon 9 today – we hope you enjoy the mission,” said SpaceX Chief Engineer Bala Ramamurthy.
“It was incredible. Appreciate all the hard work. Thanks for the great ride to space,” the crew responded.
The Crew Dragon’s nosecone is opening. This rounded cover at the top of the spacecraft protects the docking system and the guidance, navigation and control system. The spacecraft’s environmental control and life support system is running as well.