Countdown Update

The weather and winds continue to cooperate as NASA and SpaceX prepare for the liftoff of the company’s Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon spacecraft on the Demo-1 mission, an uncrewed flight to fully demonstrate this new crew transportation system. Launch remains targeted for 2:49 a.m. from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The Eastern Range is “go” as well, and both of the rocket’s stages are almost fully fueled.

The International Space Station will be flying at an altitude of 258 statute miles over central Iraq at the time the SpaceX Falcon 9 lifts off from Launch Complex 39A.

Historic Launch Complex 39A

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the company's Crew Dragon spacecraft onboard is seen after being raised into a vertical position on the launch pad at Launch Complex 39A as preparations continue for the Demo-1 mission, Feb. 28, 2019, at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft onboard is seen after being raised into a vertical position on the launch pad at Launch Complex 39A as preparations continue for the Demo-1 mission, Feb. 28, 2019, at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Photo credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky

Originally built for the massive Saturn V rockets that sent astronauts on Apollo missions to the Moon, Launch Complex 39A also served as one of the two launch pads used by the space shuttle. Between Apollo, Skylab, Apollo-Soyuz and the space shuttle, this launch pad has been the starting point for many of the nation’s most challenging and inspiring missions.

In 2014, SpaceX signed a property agreement with NASA for use and operation of the launch complex for 20 years, and the company modified the facility to prepare for the processing and launch of its Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets.

To learn more about Launch Complex 39A’s fascinating past and the upgrades that prepared it for today’s launch, click here.

Uncrewed Flight Test Will Pave the Way for SpaceX Crewed Mission

NASA astronauts, from left, Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley, assigned to fly on SpaceX's Demo-2 test flight of its Crew Dragon, are inside a mockup of the spacecraft at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston on Aug. 2, 2018
NASA astronauts, from left, Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley, assigned to fly on SpaceX’s Demo-2 test flight of its Crew Dragon, are inside a mockup of the spacecraft at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston on Aug. 2, 2018, ahead of the agency’s announcement of their commercial crew assignment Aug. 3. Photo credit: SpaceX

SpaceX’s Demo-1 uncrewed flight test of its Crew Dragon spacecraft, targeted to lift off at 2:49 a.m. atop a Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, will be the first launch for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. A successful Demo-1 flight test will pave the way for SpaceX’s Demo-2 flight test with two NASA astronauts onboard, targeted for July 2019. Demo-1 will mark Crew Dragon’s first flight to the International Space Station.

NASA has partnered with Boeing and SpaceX to return human spaceflight launches to the space station from U.S. soil, a feat that has not been accomplished since STS-135 — the final mission of the Space Shuttle Program — in July 2011.

Veteran astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley are crewmates for Demo-2 and have trained extensively for the mission. Both have been intimately involved in Crew Dragon’s development, providing feedback and helping SpaceX check out crew interfaces at every phase of testing.

A colonel in the U.S. Air Force, Behnken is a veteran of two space shuttle missions — STS-123 in March 2008 and STS-130 in February 2010. He has logged more than 708 hours in space, including more than 37 hours on six spacewalks. Hurley piloted space shuttle missions STS-127 in July 2009 and STS-135 in July 2011. The retired U.S. Marine Corps colonel has logged more than 680 hours in space.

Behnken and Hurley are here at Kennedy this morning to see the historic liftoff of Demo-1 liftoff.

Data from Demo-1 will help NASA confirm that SpaceX’s Crew Dragon and Falcon 9 systems can safely carry crew to the space station and return them home.

‘Our Destiny Lies Above Us’

The International Space Station was photographed Oct. 4, 2018, by Expedition 56 crew members from a Soyuz spacecraft after undocking.
The International Space Station was photographed Oct. 4, 2018, by Expedition 56 crew members from a Soyuz spacecraft after undocking. Credit: NASA/Roscosmos

NASA’s Commercial Crew Program is poised to return America’s capability to launch U.S. astronauts from our nation’s soil to the International Space Station.

Falcon 9 Propellant Loading Operations Begin

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, topped by the company's Crew Dragon spacecraft, stands on the launch pad at Kennedy Space Center's Launch Complex 39A.
The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, topped by the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft, stands on the launch pad at Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A. Image credit: NASA TV

Launch preparations continue at Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A, where a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon spacecraft await liftoff at 2:49 a.m. EST on the company’s Demo-1 mission to the International Space Station.

Propellant loading operations are beginning. RP-1, a rocket-grade kerosene, is pumped into both of the Falcon 9 rocket’s stages while the first stage is loaded with liquid oxygen (LOX). Second-stage LOX loading begins later, about 16 minutes prior to liftoff.

Meet Ripley: Special ‘Passenger’ on Crew Dragon

Ripley, an anthropomorphic test device fitted with sensors, is shown strapped into the Crew Dragon spacecraft.
Ripley, an anthropomorphic test device fitted with sensors, is shown strapped into the Crew Dragon spacecraft. Photo credit: SpaceX

There are no people flying on the SpaceX Crew Dragon for Demo-1. After all, the mission’s primary objective is to perform an end-to-end demonstration of this new crew transportation system before astronauts climb aboard.

But the Crew Dragon isn’t empty, either. Ripley, an anthropomorphic test device, is a special “passenger” fitted with sensors around the head, neck and spine to record everything an astronaut would experience throughout the mission, such as the forces, acceleration, protection offered by Crew Dragon’s seats, and overall environment.

When the Demo-1 mission is complete, SpaceX will collect Ripley’s sensor data—valuable information that will help verify that Crew Dragon will provide astronauts a safe, comfortable and enjoyable ride to space.

A Look Ahead at Today’s Timeline

At NASA Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A, the crew access arm has been extended to the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft, attached atop the company's Falcon 9 rocket.
At NASA Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A, the crew access arm has been extended to the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft, attached atop the company’s Falcon 9 rocket. Liftoff of the Demo-1 mission to the International Space Station is scheduled for 2:49 a.m. EST. Image credit: NASA TV

In case you missed it, here’s a look at today’s planned timeline of countdown and ascent milestones:

Countdown and Liftoff
Min/Sec—Events
-45:00SpaceX Launch Director verifies “go” for propellant load
-37:00Dragon launch escape system is armed
-35:00RP-1 (rocket grade kerosene) loading begins
-35:00First stage LOX (liquid oxygen) loading begins
-16:00Second stage LOX loading begins
-07:00Falcon 9 begins engine chill prior to launch
-05:00Dragon transitions to internal power
-01:00Command flight computer to begin final prelaunch checks
-01:00Propellant tank pressurization to flight pressure begins
-00:45SpaceX Launch Director verifies go for launch
-00:03Engine controller commands engine ignition sequence to start
-00:00—Liftoff of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon spacecraft

Ascent, First Stage Landing and Dragon Deployment
Min/Sec—Events
00:58Max Q (moment of peak mechanical stress on the rocket)
02:35First stage main engine cutoff (MECO)
02:38First and second stages separate
02:42Second stage engine starts
07:48First stage entry burn
08:59Second stage engine cutoff (SECO-1)
09:24First stage landing burn
09:52First stage landing
11:00Dragon separates from second stage

SpaceX will attempt to land the Falcon 9 first stage on its autonomous drone ship, “Of Course I Still Love You,” which is waiting offshore in the Atlantic Ocean.

Demo-1 Launch Countdown: Live Coverage Starts Now

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, topped by the company's Crew Dragon spacecraft, stands on the launch pad at Kennedy Space Center's Launch Complex 39A.
The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, topped by the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft, stands on the launch pad at Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A. Liftoff of the Demo-1 mission to the International Space Station is scheduled for 2:49 a.m. EST. Image credit: NASA TV

The countdown is on at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, where the first flight of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft awaits liftoff on its debut flight aboard the company’s Falcon 9 rocket. On this uncrewed flight test, called Demo-1, Crew Dragon is embarking on a mission to the International Space Station as a part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

Launch is targeted for 2:49 a.m. EST from historic Launch Complex 39A. Meteorologists with the U.S. Air Force’s 45th Weather Squadron predict an 80 percent chance of favorable weather.

Demo-1 is the first flight of a commercially built and operated spacecraft designed to fly astronauts to the space station from U.S. soil. The mission will put SpaceX’s Crew Dragon through its paces, ensuring all the spacecraft’s systems work as expected and ultimately demonstrating its ability to safely launch astronauts to the station and return them home.

There are no people flying on the Crew Dragon this morning, but every step of the mission to come will be carried out as if astronauts were on board. Instead, a passenger named “Ripley”—an anthropomorphic test device—is strapped in for flight. Loaded with sensors, Ripley will gather valuable data about what an astronaut would experience on this mission. The Crew Dragon also is carrying about 400 pounds of crew supplies and equipment.

This morning’s launch is a cross-country effort. SpaceX’s launch team is commanding the countdown from Firing Room 4 in Kennedy’s Launch Control Center, then will transfer control to the company’s mission control center in Hawthorne, California. Meanwhile, NASA teams at Kennedy and the agency’s Johnson Space Center in Houston are monitoring today’s activities.