The NASA astronauts who will become the first Americans to launch to the International Space Station from American soil in nearly a decade are on their way to the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Demo-2 crew members Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley are expected to arrive at the Launch and Landing Facility runway at the spaceport today around 4 p.m. EDT.
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine and Center Director Bob Cabana will be at the runway to welcome the astronauts. A media Q&A will follow at the runway. These events will be broadcast live on NASA Television and online at www.nasa.gov/live.
Liftoff of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the Crew Dragon spacecraft is targeted for Wednesday, May 27, at 4:33 p.m. EDT from Kennedy’s historic Launch Complex 39A. The Demo-2 mission will serve as an end-to-end flight test to validate the SpaceX crew transportation system, paving the way for its certification for regular crew flights to the station as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.
Tomorrow’s schedule calls for the astronauts to depart from Ellington Field in Houston, Texas, near NASA’s Johnson Space Center, and fly to Kennedy aboard an agency Gulfstream aircraft. They’re expected to arrive at the Launch and Landing Facility at Kennedy at approximately 4 p.m. EDT. NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine and Center Director Bob Cabana will greet the crew, followed by a news conference at the runway. These events will be broadcast live on NASA Television and online at www.nasa.gov/live.
Behnken and Hurley will fly to the station aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft launched by a Falcon 9 rocket from Kennedy’s historic Launch Complex 39A. The Demo-2 mission will serve as an end-to-end flight test to validate the SpaceX crew transportation system, from launch to docking to splashdown. It is the final flight test for the system to be certified for regular crew flights to the station as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. Liftoff is slated for Wednesday, May 27 at 4:33 p.m. EDT.
The pace of prelaunch activities continues to pick up at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida as teams prepare for the upcoming launch of the agency’s SpaceX Demo-2 mission — the first launch of astronauts from America’s premier multi-user spaceport in nearly a decade.
On the Demo-2 flight test, NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley will fly to the International Space Station aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft launched by a Falcon 9 rocket. Liftoff from Kennedy’s Launch Complex 39A is scheduled for Wednesday, May 27, at 4:33 p.m. EDT.
Late Friday night, May 15, the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft arrived at Launch Complex 39A after making the trek from its processing facility at nearby Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
This Wednesday, Behnken and Hurley will fly from their home base at the agency’s Johnson Space Center in Houston to the Florida spaceport. The agency Flight Readiness Review begins at Kennedy the following day.
Demo-2 will serve as an end-to-end flight test to validate the SpaceX crew transportation system, and is the final flight test for the system to be certified for regular crew flights to the station as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. This will be the first launch of American astronauts on an American rocket from American soil to the International Space Station since the final flight of the space shuttle in 2011.
NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley entered quarantine Wednesday, May 13, in preparation for their upcoming flight to the International Space Station on NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 mission. They’ll lift off aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft carried by the company’s Falcon 9 rocket two weeks later at 4:33 pm Eastern Wednesday, May 27, from the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, people all over the world recently have experienced varying degrees of quarantine – a period of isolation from others to prevent the spread of contagious illness. However, for crews getting ready to launch, “flight crew health stabilization” is a routine part of the final weeks before liftoff for all missions to the space station.
Behnken and Hurley will be the first American astronauts to fly to the station aboard an American spacecraft launched from American soil since the retirement of the Space Shuttle Program in 2011. The Demo-2 flight is an end-to-end test of SpaceX’s crew transportation system, part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. They’ll meet up with the Expedition 63 crew already in residence aboard the orbiting laboratory: NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy and cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner.
Spending the final two weeks before liftoff in quarantine helps ensure the Demo-2 crew arrives healthy, protecting themselves and their colleagues already on the station.
Since Hurley and Behnken are training side by side and will be working and living as a team on the space station with their crewmates, they’re unable to maintain a six-foot distance. NASA’s quarantine rules are designed to protect astronaut crews while allowing them to continue working closely together, by limiting who can be in close proximity to them and ensuring they stay in environments in which their exposure to contagions or other hazardous materials can be tightly controlled in advance of their launch.
If they are able to maintain quarantine conditions at home, crew members can choose to quarantine from there until they travel to Kennedy Space Center. If for some reason they aren’t able to maintain quarantine conditions at home – for instance, if a family member living with them isn’t able to maintain quarantine because of their job or school requirements – they have the option of living in the Astronaut Quarantine Facility at Johnson Space Center until they leave for Kennedy Space Center.
Some additional safeguards have been added because of the coronavirus. For example, anyone who will come on site or interact with the crew during the quarantine period, as well as any VIPs, will be screened for temperature and symptoms. Hurley and Behnken, as well as those in direct, close contact with the crew will be tested twice for the virus as a precaution.
Health stabilization procedures were introduced for the Apollo program, in which NASA astronauts left low-Earth orbit to journey to the Moon, and have continued through the shuttle and International Space Station programs.
Behnken and Hurley will remain in quarantine after their arrival at Kennedy on May 20. Liftoff from Kennedy’s historic Launch Pad 39A is targeted for May 27 at 4:33 p.m. EDT.
NASA and SpaceX have worked side-by-side, including through detailed simulations with astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley who will first fly on Crew Dragon, to develop and assess the spacecraft’s control system and the spacesuit the crew will wear during the NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 mission to the International Space Station as part of the agency’s Commercial Crew Program.
SpaceX released a docking simulator Behnken and Hurley have used during training for the return of human spaceflight to the U.S. soil to the space station.
Crew Dragon’s system includes touch screens and physical manual control options with robust fault tolerance built into the system. The touch screens have been tuned to operate with and without the SpaceX spacesuit gloves to high reliability. The control system has been thoroughly tested during the hundreds of hours of training and joint simulations with the crew in both suited and non-suited situations to demonstrate full functionality over the entire expected operating range of Crew Dragon. While the spacecraft will autonomously dock and undock with the space station, the crew onboard can take manual control if necessary.
The spacesuit is custom-made for each passenger aboard Crew Dragon and is designed to be functional, lightweight, and to offer protection from potential depressurization. A single connection point on the suit’s thigh attaches life support systems, including air and power connections. The helmet is custom manufactured using 3D printing technology and includes integrated valves, mechanisms for visor retraction and locking, and microphones within the helmet’s structure. The custom-tailored suits include touchscreen compatible gloves, a flame-resistant outer layer and provides pressurization with a controlled environment for the crew in atypical situations, such as cabin depressurization. The suit also routes communications and cooling systems to the astronauts during flight.
When NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 mission takes flight, it will usher in a new era in human spaceflight. NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley will fly to the International Space Station aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft, launching atop the company’s Falcon 9 rocket. Not only will the mission renew American capability to launch astronauts from U.S. soil, it also will expand the number of crew members on board the station – and, in turn, increase the opportunities to conduct science investigations in the unique environment of low-Earth orbit.
NASA’s Commercial Crew Program is working with partners SpaceX and Boeing to develop a U.S. commercial crew space transportation capability with the goal of achieving safe, reliable and cost-effective access to and from the space station and other destinations in low-Earth orbit. Commercial transportation to and from the station will provide expanded utility, additional research time and broader opportunities for discovery on the orbiting laboratory.
“That’s what Commercial Crew is all about. This is a new generation, a new era in human spaceflight,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said during a briefing May 1. “NASA has the ability to be a customer – one customer of many customers – in a very robust commercial marketplace in low-Earth orbit. We also want to have numerous providers competing against each other on constant innovation.”
Partnerships have always played an important role in NASA’s achievements. Throughout its history, the agency has worked with industry and academia to explore and utilize the space frontier. Contractors built rockets, satellites and spacecraft. Colleges and universities have worked with NASA scientists and engineers to develop technology to support investigations leading to discoveries.
As the 30-year Space Shuttle Program drew to a close, NASA again began plans to reach beyond low-Earth orbit. To allow a focus on exploration to the Moon and Mars, NASA has entered into partnerships with industry opening a variety of new opportunities.
A little more than two years after the final shuttle flight, SpaceX’s Dragon and Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus spacecraft began successfully launching atop their company’s Falcon 9 and Antares rockets to resupply the International Space Station. The companies developed the rockets and spacecraft through public-private partnerships under the agency’s commercial resupply services contracts.
“Commercialization is a big effort on board the International Space Station,” said Kirk Shireman, manager of NASA’s International Space Station Program. “We’re working with commercial partners developing facilities, testing modules; today, we already transport cargo commercially, and very soon, of course, we look forward to transporting our crews commercially. This really is the next major step in commercializing low-Earth orbit and having a really viable low-Earth orbit economy in which NASA is one of many customers.”
The agency has also adopted a five-part plan to enable a thriving economy in low-Earth orbit, including adopting new policies that allow some commercial and marketing activities to take plan on the space station, creating the opportunity for future private astronaut missions, supporting the development of new commercial destinations, and pursuing activities that foster new and emerging markets.
During the past nearly 20 years of continuous human presence on board the orbiting laboratory, Shireman said, resident crews have conducted more than 2,900 scientific investigations for more than 4,000 researchers together with partners in 108 countries and areas across the globe. NASA and its commercial and international partners are eager to expand the opportunities for human spaceflight and additional science.
“We are closer than ever to bringing human spaceflight capabilities back to the United States for the first time since 2011, since the Space Shuttle retired,” said Benji Reed, SpaceX’s director of crew mission management. “The criticality of this is not just that capability but to help the space station stay fully operational – to help not only our space program but the programs of many countries around the world.”
The SpaceX Crew Dragon trunk was secured to the spacecraft on Thursday, April 30, at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, in preparation for launch of NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 mission.
NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley will fly to the International Space Station aboard the Crew Dragon spacecraft launched atop a Falcon 9 rocket. Liftoff from Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A is slated for May 27 at 4:32 p.m. EDT.
Demo-2 will serve as an end-to-end test of SpaceX’s crew transportation system, paving the way for NASA to certify the system for regular crewed flights to the orbiting laboratory as a part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 mission will be the first crewed flight to launch from U.S. soil since the conclusion of the Space Shuttle Program in 2011.
Behnken and Hurley will fly to the station aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft launched by a Falcon 9 rocket from Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A. Liftoff is slated for May 27 at 4:32 p.m. EDT.
Building on last year’s uncrewed Demo-1 flight to the station, Demo-2 will be an end-to-end test of SpaceX’s crew transportation system, paving the way for NASA to certify the system for regular crewed flights to the orbiting laboratory. This capability, in turn, will maximize the station’s use as a scientific platform unparalleled on Earth.
“This is a high priority mission for the United States of America. We as a nation have not had our own access to the International Space Station for nine years,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said. “At the same time, we’ve had American astronauts on the International Space Station for 20 years in a row, and they’ve been doing these absolutely stunning experiments and discoveries and advancing the human condition from the microgravity of space.”
NASA’s Commercial Crew Program team has worked in partnership with SpaceX for many years to reach this point, according to Kathy Lueders, CCP manager, and Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX president and chief operating officer.
“I want to make it clear that this is one of many exciting and hard days that we have in front of us,” Lueders said. “Gwynne’s team and my team are diligently working on getting the vehicles ready; making sure that all the i’s are dotted and t’s are crossed in our analysis, test data, assessments; going through all the reviews. We’re making sure that we are ready for this important mission to safely fly Bob and Doug up to the International Space Station and return them to their families.”
“We’ve worked closely with NASA since 2006,” Shotwell said. “All that work is culminating in this historic event coming up in just a few weeks.”
One critical milestone was completed today: the 27th and final test of Crew Dragon’s enhanced Mark 3 parachute design. The parachutes will play a key role in the safe landing of the crew when the spacecraft returns to Earth.
Behnken and Hurley both are veterans of two space shuttle flights, having been selected as astronauts in the same class – the 2000 astronaut class. Behnken served as a mission specialist on STS-123 and STS-130, while Hurley was the pilot on STS-127 and STS-135 – the final flight of the program. Today, they’re preparing for their first flight together on a momentous mission.
“It’s probably a dream of every test pilot school student to have the opportunity to fly on a brand-new spaceship, and I’m lucky enough to get that opportunity with my good friend, here, Doug Hurley,” Behnken said of his friend and crewmate, seated beside him.
“It’s a great honor to be part of this mission,” Hurley added. “It’s amazing after all this time to be less than a month away from launch down in Florida.”
Behnken and Hurley truly are embarking on a test flight. While Crew Dragon is docked to the space station, mission controllers at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston will work with the crew to carry out a series of test objectives.
“This is really to shake down and demonstrate that all the preparations and the emergency capabilities we’ve built into this vehicle have made it reliable — as a lifeboat in a contingency aboard [station] and it’s always there as a backup to get crew members down to the ground if needed – but also reliable to carry crew members up and down on a regular and repeatable basis,” said Zeb Scoville, NASA Demo-2 flight director.
One unexpected challenge the teams have had to manage is how to deal with the arrival of the novel coronavirus. Even in the midst of the global pandemic, mission preparations have continued – with precautions. Those precautions – such as social distancing – extend to launch viewers, too.
“We won’t have the luxury of having our family and friends being there at Kennedy to watch the launch. But, obviously, it’s the right thing to do in the current environment,” Hurley said. “We want everybody to be safe. We want everybody to enjoy this and relish this moment in U.S. space history, but be safe and enjoy it from a distance.”
Current plans call for the astronauts to arrive at Kennedy a few days prior to liftoff for one final launch dress rehearsal.
“This is a very exciting time,” Bridenstine said. “The International Space Station is a critical capability for the United States of America; having access to it is also critical. We are moving forward very rapidly with this program that is so important to our nation and, in fact, to the entire world.”