Preparations Continue for SpaceX First Operational Flight with Astronauts

Mission specialist Shannon Walker, left, pilot Victor Glover, Crew Dragon commander Michael Hopkins – all NASA astronauts – and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut and mission specialist Soichi Noguchi, right, will launch to the International Space Station on the agency’s SpaceX Crew-1 mission.
Mission specialist Shannon Walker, left, pilot Victor Glover, Crew Dragon commander Michael Hopkins – all NASA astronauts – and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut and mission specialist Soichi Noguchi, right, will launch to the International Space Station on the agency’s SpaceX Crew-1 mission. Photo credit: NASA/Norah Moran

The SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft for the company’s first operational flight with astronauts to the International Space Station as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program arrived in Florida Tuesday, Aug. 18. The upcoming flight, known as NASA’s SpaceX Crew-1 mission, will be the first of regular rotational missions to the space station following completion of NASA certification.

The Crew Dragon spacecraft will launch atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida no earlier than Oct. 23, 2020. The spacecraft made its journey from the SpaceX factory in Hawthorne, California over the weekend and is now undergoing prelaunch processing in the company’s facility on nearby Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

Preparations are also underway for the mission’s Falcon 9 rocket. SpaceX completed a successful static fire test of the rocket’s second stage at its facility in McGregor, Texas, also on Tuesday. The Falcon 9 first stage booster arrived at the launch site in Florida in July to begin its final launch preparations.

The Crew-1 mission will send Crew Dragon commander Michael Hopkins, pilot Victor Glover, and mission specialist Shannon Walker, all of NASA, along with Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) mission specialist Soichi Noguchi to the orbiting laboratory for a six-month science mission.

Crew Dragon on the Path Home

The SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft, carrying NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley, undocks from the International Space Station on Aug. 1, 2020. Photo credit: NASA

NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 mission passed a significant milestone this evening as the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft undocked from the International Space Station at 7:35 p.m. EDT after more than two months of docked operations in orbit. Astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley, traveling aboard the spacecraft they named “Endeavour,” will spend one more night in space before beginning their journey back to Earth on Sunday in the first return of a commercially built and operated American spacecraft carrying astronauts from the space station.

NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley are seated inside the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft on Aug. 1, 2020.
NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley are seated inside the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft prior to undocking from the International Space Station on Aug. 1, 2020. Photo credit: NASA

With the spacecraft on its path home, the astronauts will settle in for an eight-hour sleep period. While they’re asleep, a six-minute departure phasing burn at 1:48 a.m. EDT Sunday, Aug. 2 will set the Dragon Endeavour on the proper orbital path to a planned splashdown in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Pensacola, Florida.

The deorbit burn, which slows the spacecraft’s forward speed enough to begin its descent, is scheduled for 1:51 p.m. EDT on Sunday, with splashdown at 2:48 p.m. EDT. Teams continue to closely monitor Hurricane Isaias and evaluate impacts to the landing sites in the Gulf of Mexico along the Florida Panhandle. Teams have several weather decision milestones ahead of and after undocking to adjust the splashdown location and time based on the forecasted conditions for recovery.

Follow along with the return and recovery activities here on the blog and on NASA Television.

NASA astronauts Bob Behnken, left, and Doug Hurley, are pictured having just entered the International Space Station on May 31, 2020, shortly after arriving aboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft.
NASA astronauts Bob Behnken, left, and Doug Hurley, are pictured having just entered the International Space Station on May 31, 2020, shortly after arriving aboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft. Photo credit: NASA

Behnken and Hurley arrived at the orbiting laboratory on May 31, following a successful launch on May 30 on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. During their 63 days aboard the station, Behnken and Hurley contributed more than 100 hours of time to supporting the orbiting laboratory’s investigations, participated in public engagement events, and supported four spacewalks with Behnken and Cassidy to install new batteries in the station’s power grid and upgrade other station hardware.

These activities are a part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, which has been working with the U.S. aerospace industry to launch astronauts on American rockets and spacecraft from American soil the International Space Station for the first time since 2011. This is SpaceX’s final test flight and is providing data on the performance of the Falcon 9 rocket, Crew Dragon spacecraft and ground systems, as well as in-orbit, docking, splashdown and recovery operations.

The test flight also is helping NASA certify SpaceX’s crew transportation system for regular flights carrying astronauts to and from the space station. SpaceX is readying the hardware for the first rotational mission, which would occur following NASA certification.

Departure Burn 3

An infographic illustrating the SpaceX Crew Dragon's different depart burns during its return to Earth.
An infographic illustrating the SpaceX Crew Dragon’s different depart burns during its return to Earth. Photo credit: NASA

The fourth and final departure burn, helping to send the Crew Dragon spacecraft along on its journey back to Earth, is complete. Coming up next, in a little over an hour, Crew Dragon’s Draco thrusters will begin the departure phasing burn.

Departure Burn 2

NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley are seated inside the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft prior to undocking from the International Space Station on Aug. 1, 2020.
NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley are seated inside the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft prior to undocking from the International Space Station on Aug. 1, 2020. Photo credit: NASA

Crew Dragon has now completed three out of a series of four departure burns – the count starting at departure burn zero while undocking from the International Space Station – moving the spacecraft below and in front of the space station’s orbit.

 

Crew Dragon Exits Station’s Approach Ellipsoid

Black and white infographic depicting the Crew Dragon return timeline from departure to splashdown.
This infographic illustrates the Crew Dragon return timeline from departure through splashdown. Click the image to view larger version. Image credit: SpaceX

SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft has exited the approach ellipsoid, an imaginary boundary surrounding the International Space Station. Four kilometers long, two kilometers wide, and two kilometers deep, the approach ellipsoid governs all vehicles coming or going from the orbiting laboratory.

Crew Dragon Exits Station’s Keep Out Sphere

NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley are seated inside the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft on Aug. 1, 2020.
NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley are seated inside the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft prior to undocking from the International Space Station on Aug. 1, 2020. Photo credit: NASA

The SpaceX Crew Dragon, having undocked from the International Space Station at 7:35 p.m. EDT, is now moving away from the orbiting laboratory. The spacecraft just exited the Keep Out Sphere, an imaginary boundary extending 200 meters out from the station. NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley, aboard Crew Dragon, are beginning the return trip to Earth, signaling the upcoming conclusion of the agency’s SpaceX Demo-2 mission, and end-to-end flight test designed to help certify SpaceX’s crew transportation system for regular crewed flights to and from the station under the agency’s Commercial Crew Program.

“It’s been a great two months, and we appreciate all you’ve done as a crew to help us prove out Dragon on its maiden flight,” said Hurley, addressing Expedition 63 Commander Chris Cassidy and Russian cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner following Crew Dragon’s departure from the orbiting laboratory.

Behnken and Hurley will spend the night in orbit before beginning the journey home. Splashdown is scheduled for 2:48 p.m. EDT on Sunday.

NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2: Crew Dragon Departing Station

The SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft, carrying NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley, undocks from the International Space Station on Aug. 1, 2020. Photo credit: NASA

The SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft is departing the International Space Station, and NASA astronauts Douglas Hurley and Robert Benhken are officially beginning their journey home. The spacecraft undocked from International Docking Adapter-2 at the forward end of the station’s Harmony node at 7:35 p.m. EDT. Two short firings of Dragon Endeavour’s Draco thrusters gently push the spacecraft away from the orbiting laboratory. Later, a series of four departure burns will further increase the distance between the two vehicles.

Crew Dragon ‘Go’ for Undocking

Demo-2 mission patchJust moments ago, NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 crew got the word that Crew Dragon is “Go” to undock from the International Space Station, beginning the journey home. Anna Menon, the SpaceX Crew Operations and Resources Engineer (CORE) for Crew Dragon’s departure from the International Space Station, shared the decision with astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley.

In the next few minutes, the vestibule between Crew Dragon and the station will be depressurized. The spacecraft will autonomously undock from the orbiting laboratory at 7:34 p.m. EDT.

NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2: Astronauts Ready for Crew Dragon Undocking

NASA astronauts Robert Behnken (left) and Douglas Hurley await liftoff of NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 mission on May 30, 2020. Photo credit: NASA

NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley are back aboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon “Endeavour” spacecraft in preparation for undocking from the International Space Station. Behnken and Hurley are strapped into their seats and the hatches between the two vehicles have been closed. The final “Go-No Go” for undocking is coming up at about 7:20 p.m. EDT.

Photo of cargo bags packed and staged near the docking adapter connecting the space station to the SpaceX Crew Dragon.
A photo of cargo bags packed near the docking adapter connecting the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station prior to NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley boarding Crew Dragon for departure. Photo credit: NASA/Bob Behnken

If the “Go” is given, undocking is targeted for 7:34 p.m. EDT. Behnken and Hurley will spend the night in orbit before beginning the journey home. Splashdown is scheduled for 2:48 p.m. EDT on Sunday.

The Crew Dragon spacecraft carrying Hurley and Behnken lifted off from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on May 30 and arrived at the space station the following day. The Demo-2 test flight is helping NASA certify SpaceX’s crew transportation system for regular flights carrying astronauts to and from the orbiting laboratory. SpaceX is readying the hardware for the first rotational mission, which would occur following NASA certification.

More details about the return can be found in the Top 10 Things to Know for NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 Return and the splashdown weather criteria fact sheet.

 

Bob and Doug ‘Go’ for Suit Donning

NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken familiarize themselves with SpaceX’s Crew Dragon.
Prior to the Demo-2 launch, NASA astronauts Doug Hurley (right) and Bob Behnken familiarize themselves with SpaceX’s Crew Dragon, the spacecraft that will transport them to the International Space Station as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. Photo credit: SpaceX

Behnken and Hurley have received the ‘go’ for donning their SpaceX spacesuits. These suits provide them with breathable gasses for their return trip home and also allow them to communicate with teams here on Earth via microphones contained in the helmets.