The SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft for its first crew launch from American soil has arrived at the launch site. NASA and SpaceX are preparing for the company’s first flight test with astronauts to the International Space Station as part of the agency’s Commercial Crew Program.
The SpaceX Crew Dragon will launch atop a Falcon 9 rocket with NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley from historic Launch Complex 39A from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The spacecraft now will undergo final testing and prelaunch processing in a SpaceX facility on nearby Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
Watch a video of the SpaceX Crew Dragon for Demo-2 as it underwent electromagnetic interference testing in the EMI chamber at the SpaceX factory in Hawthorne prior to its arrival at the launch site in Florida.
The joint simulation involved a mock-up of the spacecraft and Go Searcher, one of the SpaceX ships that will recover the spacecraft and astronauts after splashing down in the Atlantic Ocean. NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken, who will fly to and from the space station aboard Crew Dragon for the SpaceX Demo-2 mission, participated in the exercise.
“Integrated tests like today’s are a crucial element in preparing for human spaceflight missions,” Hurley said. “This opportunity allowed us to work with the recovery team and ensure the plans are solid for the Demo-2 mission.”
The event marked the first time a fully integrated NASA and SpaceX team worked together on the ship to go through an end-to-end practice run of how the teams will recover and extract the astronauts when they return from the space station in Crew Dragon. Hurley and Behnken were taken out of the spacecraft, given a mock medical evaluation and then transported to the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Skid Strip, or airport.
“We’re making sure that the team integrates together — that’s a key to any successful mission,” said Ted Mosteller, the NASA recovery director in charge of the agency’s team for the Commercial Crew Program. “We worked on successfully doing what we need to do to take care of the crew once they return to Earth.”
The purpose of the exercise, Mosteller pointed out, was to ensure participants knew their roles and responsibilities — and where they were supposed to be staged on the 150-foot vessel. He was extremely pleased with the results.
“It feels really good; it has been a lot of hard work to get us to this point,” Mosteller said. “There was a lot of collaboration, and it was a very positive experience for the integrated team.”
For Hurley and Behnken, it’s another milestone on the path to their historic flight.
“We are both looking forward to the Demo-2 flight and having the opportunity to return to the International Space Station,” Behnken said. “Each of these exercises puts us one step closer to fulfilling NASA’s mission of returning astronauts to the International Space Station from U.S. soil.”
As commercial crew providers Boeing and SpaceX begin to make regular flights to the space station, NASA will continue to advance its mission to go beyond low-Earth orbit and establish a human presence on the Moon with the ultimate goal of sending astronauts to Mars.
NASA and SpaceX practiced Crew Dragon rendezvous and docking to the International Space Station during a virtual dress rehearsal on June 26 for the company’s first crew flight test, known as Demo-2, to the microgravity laboratory.
The activity is part of a series of integrated simulations bringing together NASA and SpaceX flight control teams to complete multiple practice runs for each dynamic phase of a mission from launch to splashdown. These simulations provide the teams plenty of practice to ensure they safely and successfully perform the planned operations of the actual spaceflight, with opportunities to fine-tune their procedures and gain experience on how to solve problems should they arise.
Astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley are assigned to take the first flight on SpaceX’s Demo-2 mission, and the two have been working closely with SpaceX throughout the design and construction of the spacecraft, offering up the experience they gained on previous spaceflights. Joint simulations bring them together with the teams that will support them from the ground to practice for the mission — including handling any challenges that might arise during flight.
The Demo-2 flight test will be the Crew Dragon’s chance to demonstrate a complete mission with astronauts, from launch to landing, and will put SpaceX on its way to earning certification from NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. Once the spacecraft is certified, SpaceX can begin regular flights to the space station with long-duration crews aboard.
In March, SpaceX’s Demo-1 mission proved the Crew Dragon and its Falcon 9 rocket worked as designed. The mission tested a new launch configuration, checked maneuverability demonstrations in free flight and ensured the crew’s ability to transfer power and data between the spacecraft and the space station. With those boxes all successfully checked, the Crew Dragon became the first commercial spacecraft built to carry humans to dock with the space station. Its subsequent safe reentry and splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean was an important step toward proving the spacecraft is ready to carry humans onboard.