NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 Astronauts Rehearse for Launch Day

Demo-2 crew members Robert Behnken (right) and Douglas Hurley walk down the hallway of the Neil A. Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida during a dry dress rehearsal ahead of NASA's SpaceX Demo-2 launch.
On May 23, 2020, Demo-2 crew members Robert Behnken (right) and Douglas Hurley walk down the hallway of the Neil A. Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida as they prepare to be transported to Launch Complex 39A during a full dress rehearsal ahead of launch. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett
On May 23, 2020, Demo-2 crew members Robert Behnken (right) and Douglas Hurley walk out of the Neil A. Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building as they prepare to be transported to historic Launch Complex 39A during a dress rehearsal ahead of NASA's SpaceX Demo-2 launch.
On May 23, 2020, Demo-2 crew members Robert Behnken (right) and Douglas Hurley (left) walk out of the Neil A. Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida in preparation for transport to Launch Complex 39A during a full dress rehearsal ahead of launch. Photo credit: NASA/Brandon Garner

Today at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley participated in a countdown dress rehearsal of the launch day events. The crewmates are preparing to launch aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft on the company’s Falcon 9 rocket and fly to the International Space Station. Demo-2 will be the first crewed mission for the agency’s Commercial Crew Program.

Behnken and Hurley began their day in the Astronaut Crew Quarters inside Kennedy’s Neil A. Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building. The pair put on their black-and-white SpaceX spacesuits, took the elevator down to the ground level and exited through a pair of double doors, where their transport vehicle – a Tesla Model X — waited. With smiles and waves, they climbed in for the 20-minute ride to Launch Complex 39A.

The Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon spacecraft have been in place on the launch pad since Thursday morning, May 21. Behnken and Hurley entered the Crew Dragon by way of the pad’s Crew Access Arm and checked their communications systems before the hatch was closed. The rehearsal concluded with the go/no-go poll for Falcon 9 propellant loading, which normally occurs 45 minutes before launch.

NASA astronauts Douglas Hurley (left) and Robert Behnken (right) participate in a dress rehearsal for launch at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on May 23, 2020, ahead of NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 mission to the International Space Station.
NASA astronauts Douglas Hurley (left) and Robert Behnken (right) participate in a dress rehearsal for launch at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on May 23, 2020, ahead of NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 mission to the International Space Station. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

The U.S. Air Force 45th Weather Squadron are predicting a 40% chance of favorable weather conditions for the SpaceX Demo-2 mission.  Launch is scheduled at 4:33 p.m. EDT Wednesday, May 27, from Launch Pad 39A. The primary weather concerns for launch are flight through precipitation, thick and cumulus clouds.

FORECAST DETAILS

Clouds                      Coverage           Bases (feet)               Tops (feet)
Cumulus                    Scattered            3,000                          15,000
Altostratus                Broken                10,000                         17,000

Weather/Visibility:  Rain showers/5 miles
Temperature:  80 degrees

A strong high pressure ridge near Bermuda is creating east winds across Central Florida today. This flow may create morning coastal showers, but the cells will be inland of the Spaceport by the time they can develop into thunderstorms.  A low pressure area moving off the mid-Atlantic states stalls as it nudges into the ridge. Tomorrow, the low pressure area will weaken the ridge enough to allow an increase in moisture along its western periphery and into South Florida. Monday will see the clouds infiltrate the Space Coast as the ridge fully breaks down. Easterly winds will increase as a low pressure area develops over the Gulf of Mexico. Rain showers will be prevalent off and on all day. Tuesday will continue the cloudy, rainy conditions over the Spaceport. On launch day, continued extensive cloudiness is expected with rain showers and isolated thunderstorms expected throughout the day.

Rocket Completes Static Fire Test Ahead of NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 Mission

SpaceX conducted an integrated static fire test of the company's Crew Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket at Launch Complex 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida on May 22, 2020.
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft onboard is seen on the launch pad at Launch Complex 39A during a brief static fire test ahead of NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 mission, Friday, May 22, 2020, at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon spacecraft that will launch American astronauts to the International Space Station from American soil for the first time in nearly a decade has completed a key prelaunch milestone: the integrated static fire. Standing on the launch pad at Launch Complex 39A at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the rocket’s nine Merlin first-stage engines were fired for seven seconds for this critical but routine test.

NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley will fly to the space station aboard the Crew Dragon spacecraft for the Demo-2 flight test. The mission 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. Liftoff is slated for May 27 at 4:33 p.m. EDT.

 

NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 Teams Preparing for May 27 Launch

NASA and SpaceX managers conduct a news briefing on May 22, 2020, ahead of NASA's SpaceX Demo-2 launch.
Inside the Press Site auditorium at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, agency and industry leaders conduct a virtual news conference with members of the media on May 22, 2020, following the conclusion of the flight readiness review for NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 mission, with NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley, to the International Space Station. From left are Steve Jurczyk, NASA associate administrator; Kathy Lueders, Commercial Crew Program manager; Kirk Shireman, International Space Station Program manager; Benji Reed, director of Crew Mission Management, SpaceX; Norm Knight, deputy director of NASA’s Johnson Space Center’s Flight Operations; and Jim Bridenstine, NASA administrator. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 mission is cleared to proceed toward liftoff on the first crewed flight of the agency’s Commercial Crew Program, NASA and SpaceX officials said following a successful Flight Readiness Review concluded Friday at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

SpaceX will launch a Falcon 9 rocket carrying NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley aboard the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station. Liftoff is planned for 4:33 p.m. EDT on Wednesday, May 27, from Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy.

“The Flight Readiness Review is complete; we have another milestone under our belts,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said in a briefing after the review concluded. “I think everybody in the room was very clear that now is the time to speak up if there are any challenges. And there were some conversations that were very important to be had. But it’s also true that at the end, as each system and subsystem was considered, we got to a ‘go.’ So we are now preparing for a launch in five short days.”

“I knew going in that the team was ready, and they absolutely demonstrated that during the review,” said NASA Associate Administrator Steve Jurczyk. “There are no significant open issues, I am happy to report. There’s just the planned forward work to get done.”

The flight will return human spaceflight to the International Space Station from America for the first time since the retirement of the Space Shuttle Program in 2011.

NASA managers pose for a photo following the conclusion of the flight readiness review on May 22, 2020, ahead of the agency's SpaceX Demo-2 launch.
On May 22, 2020, inside the Operations Support Building II at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, NASA managers pose for a photo following the conclusion of the flight readiness review for the upcoming Demo-2 launch. Sitting at the table is NASA Associate Administrator Steve Jurczyk. Kathy Lueders, Commercial Crew Program manager, is to the far right, with NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine standing next to her. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

“I am so grateful for the NASA and SpaceX team who have dug deep and worked so hard to get us to this point,” said Kathy Lueders, manager of the agency’s Commercial Crew Program.

Several more important milestones are coming up prior to launch, Lueders said, but the team will remain vigilant as always.

“We’ve still got a static fire, and tomorrow we’ve got the dry dress — the last run-through with the crew to make sure we’re ready for launch — and then the final Launch Readiness Review on Monday,” she said. “We’re going to take it one step at a time, and fly when we’re ready.”

Norm Knight, deputy director of NASA Johnson Space Center Flight Operations, weighed in with the crew perspective, referring to the review as “fantastic.”

“We’re satisfied with the discussions that were had, the thoroughness, and the readiness of those coming in and having the necessary discussions to assure that Doug and Bob are safe,” Knight said.

Demo-2 will be 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 length of the Demo-2 mission will be determined after Behnken and Hurley arrive at the station, depending on the readiness of the next commercial crew launch.

Behnken and Hurley will join the Expedition 63 crew on the station to conduct important research as well as support station operations and maintenance. While docked to the station, the crew will run tests to ensure the Crew Dragon spacecraft is capable of remaining connected to the station for up to 210 days on future missions.

Aboard the space station, the resident crew — astronaut Chris Cassidy and cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner — are looking forward to welcoming Behnken and Hurley to the orbiting laboratory.

“I had the chance to talk to the on-orbit crew — Chris, Ivan, Anatoly — on Wednesday, just a few minutes before I left to come down here to the Kennedy Space Center,” said Kirk Shireman, manager of the agency’s International Space Station Program. “I can tell you those guys are very focused, very excited, and are preparing for having Bob and Doug arrive on orbit.”

SpaceX sees its duty to carry the Demo-2 crew to the space station and back to Earth as both a responsibility and a sacred honor, according to Benji Reed, the company’s director of crew mission management.

“It is so incredible being here at Kennedy Space Center — the home of launching astronauts from American soil on American vehicles. And we get to do it again in just five days,” Reed said. “So on behalf of all the teams working Dragon, Falcon, and hardware and software teams, and everybody in our factory, all the way to our operations groups — we are honored that NASA has trusted us with this endeavor, and that Bob and Doug trust us.”

Bridenstine acknowledged how unusual it is to carry out such a historic mission at this time, with additional precautions in place due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“These are different times, but it is also a time when we need to be doing amazing things as a nation, and inspiring the entire world,” he said. “And that’s what we’re doing.”