The SpaceX Demo-2 crew just walked out of the double doors below the Astronaut Crew Quarters – and joined a rich legacy. Apollo and space shuttle crews exited through the same doors Douglas Hurley and Robert Behnken just passed through on their way out to the customized Tesla Model X car that will be their ride to Launch Complex 39A.
A carefully spaced crowd of family, friends and supporters cheered for the pair as they waved back and paused to speak to their wives and sons.
NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 astronauts Douglas Hurley and Robert Behnken have put on their SpaceX spacesuits and will soon depart the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building and head out to the pad at Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A.
Missouri native Robert L. Behnken was selected as an astronaut by NASA in 2000 and is a veteran of two space shuttle flights. A colonel in the U.S. Air Force, Behnken has flown more than 1,500 flight hours in more than 25 different types of aircraft.
He flew as a mission specialist aboard space shuttle Endeavour on STS-123 in March 2008, and again as a mission specialist aboard Endeavour on STS-130 in 2010. Both flights were assembly missions to the International Space Station. He has logged more than 708 hours in space, and more than 37 hours during six spacewalks.
Behnken is the joint operations commander on the Demo-2 mission, responsible for activities such as rendezvous, docking and undocking, as well as Demo-2 activities while the spacecraft is docked to the space station.
With Behnken, Hurley said recently, “there is no stone unturned, no way he doesn’t have every potential eventuality already thought about, five times ahead of almost anybody else. There’s just no question I can ask him that he doesn’t already have the best answer for. It’s just been such a pleasure – and it’s such an asset – to have somebody like that on a crew with you. He’s already got it all figured out.”
Douglas G. Hurley was selected as an astronaut in 2000. A veteran of two spaceflights, he was the pilot on STS‐127 and STS‐135. Before joining NASA, he was a fighter pilot and test pilot in the U.S. Marine Corps and has logged over 5,500 hours in more than 25 aircraft.
The New York native flew as the pilot aboard space shuttle Endeavour on STS-127, an assembly mission to the International Space Station, in 2009. On his second flight, he served as the pilot aboard space shuttle Atlantis on the program’s final mission, STS-135, in 2011. He has logged more than 680 hours in space.
Hurley is the spacecraft commander for Demo-2, responsible for activities such as launch, landing and recovery.
“Doug is ready for anything, all the time. He is always prepared,” Behnken said of Hurley. “Knowing you’re going to fly into space on a test mission, you couldn’t ask for a better person or a better type of individual to be there with you. I’m just grateful that, doing something like this, I’m doing it with Doug Hurley, because he’s going to be prepared for whatever comes our way.”
Behnken and Hurley are more than crewmates: they are also good friends. They entered the astronaut corps at the same time – the class of 2000; they both married astronauts; they were even in each other’s weddings.
Both flew twice to the International Space Station on separate space shuttle missions. Now they’re preparing to fly together – an experience that’s not just enjoyable, but helpful as well.
“We can think ahead in terms of what the other person is going to need, or what the other person is going to want, anticipate the next input, all those sorts of things, which really, in a test flight like this, goes a long way,” Behnken said. “You can really anticipate the other person’s reactions versus to have a, ‘Well, I don’t know, Doug. How do you feel about the next series of events?’ I already know the answers to those questions, and it makes a big difference when you’re doing something as critical as spaceflight.”
SpaceX Demo-2 astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley will suit up inside the suit room in the Astronaut Crew Quarters inside Kennedy’s Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building. A team of SpaceX suit technicians will help them as they put on their custom-fitted spacesuits and check the suits for leaks.
SpaceX spacesuits are designed for safety and functionality – but with a nod to comfort and style. The primary purpose of the spacesuit is to provide a cocoon of pressurization, protecting from potential depressurization. A port on the suit’s thigh connects to life support systems, including air and power. The suits also include touchscreen-compatible gloves and a flame-resistant outer layer.
The helmet is custom manufactured using 3D printing technology and includes integrated valves, mechanisms for visor retraction and locking, and microphones.
The SpaceX Demo-1 mission in March 2019 was the spacecraft’s first flight test. During that uncrewed mission, the fully autonomous Crew Dragon launched aboard a Falcon 9 rocket, rendezvoused and docked with the orbiting laboratory, undocked several days later and returned to Earth with a splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean off the Florida coast.
Throughout the flight, the spacecraft’s performance and capabilities were monitored from the ground, while an anthropomorphic test device nicknamed “Ripley” rode inside the Crew Dragon as a “passenger.” Ripley was 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.
Demo-2 raises the stakes, taking Demo-1 a critical step further with the addition of a crew: veteran astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley.
This 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.
Good afternoon and welcome to live coverage of the countdown to a new era in U.S. human spaceflight: the commercial crew era.
Here at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, topped by the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft, awaits liftoff at 4:33 p.m. EDT.
This mission, NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2, will return human spaceflight capability to Florida’s Space Coast with the launch of two American astronauts, Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley, to the International Space Station on an American rocket from American soil as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.
The countdown is proceeding according to schedule at Kennedy’s historic Launch Pad 39A, where the rocket and spacecraft stand ready for the arrival of the flight crew later today. Meanwhile, across the spaceport in the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building, Behnken and Hurley have eaten and will undergo medical checks and get a weather briefing before suiting up.
And speaking of weather, U.S. Air Force 45th Space Wing meteorologists are forecasting a 50 percent chance of favorable weather at lift off based on Falcon 9 Crew Dragon launch weather criteria, and teams will continue to monitor lift off and downrange weather conditions until launch time.
Learn more about the Falcon 9/Crew Dragon launch weather criteria here.
We’ll go into detail about the astronauts, the Crew Dragon spacecraft, the Falcon 9 rocket, and the mission to come as the countdown continues, so stay with us.
Countdown clocks are ticking toward the launch of a new era in human spaceflight. With today’s scheduled launch of NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 mission at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, American astronauts will once again launch on American spacecraft from American soil to the International Space Station. Liftoff of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon spacecraft carrying NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley is targeted for 4:33 p.m. EDT from Kennedy’s historic Launch Complex 39A.
Don’t miss a minute of today’s events. Follow the countdown live starting at 12:15 p.m. EDT on NASA Television, on the web at http://www.nasa.gov/live and here on the blog.
Behnken and Hurley are spending the morning in the Astronaut Crew Quarters inside Kennedy’s Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building, where they’ll sit down for a preflight meal five hours prior to launch. The crewmates will receive a weather briefing at approximately 12:15 p.m., then begin suiting up in the crew quarters’ Suit Room around 12:30 p.m.
Here’s an overview of the countdown milestones ahead:
-04:15:00 Crew weather brief
-04:05:00 Crew handoff
-04:00:00 Suit donning and checkouts
-03:22:00 Crew walk out from Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building
-03:15:00 Crew transportation to Launch Complex 39A
-02:55:00 Crew arrives at pad
-02:35:00 Crew ingress
-02:20:00 Communication check
-02:15:00 Verify ready for seat rotation
-02:14:00 Suit leak checks
-01:55:00 Hatch close
-00:45:00 SpaceX Launch Director verifies go for propellant load
-00:42:00 Crew access arm retracts
-00:37:00 Dragon launch escape system is armed
-00:35:00 RP-1 (rocket grade kerosene) loading begins
-00:35:00 1st stage LOX (liquid oxygen) loading begins
-00:16:00 2nd stage LOX loading begins
-00:07:00 Falcon 9 begins engine chill prior to launch
-00:05:00 Dragon transitions to internal power
-00:01:00 Command flight computer to begin final prelaunch checks
-00:01:00 Propellant tank pressurization to flight pressure begins
-00:00:45 SpaceX Launch Director verifies go for launch
-00:00:03 Engine controller commands engine ignition sequence to start
-00:00:00 Falcon 9 liftoff
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.
Anticipation continues to build at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida just one day before the scheduled launch of the agency’s SpaceX Demo-2 mission. A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon spacecraft will carry two American NASA astronauts, Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley, to the International Space Station for the agency’s Commercial Crew Program. Liftoff from Kennedy’s historic Launch Complex 39A is targeted for Wednesday, May 27, at 4:33 p.m. EDT — an instantaneous launch window.
“I don’t have to tell you all how exciting it is to have the first flight of humans to space from the Kennedy Space Center in nine years,” Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana said during a briefing Tuesday, adding that the launch pad’s history only adds to the significance of NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 launch. “Now, rather than rusting away in the salt air, through our partnership with SpaceX, that pad is being used once again, and it’s now for our Commercial Crew Program as well as other missions for SpaceX, and I think that’s absolutely outstanding.”
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine recognized the years of hard work required to prepare for this mission, including at the Florida spaceport.
“It’s been nine years since we’ve had this opportunity,” Bridenstine said. “And Bob Cabana, we want to thank you for all the great work you’ve done getting us up to this point, getting the Kennedy Space Center ready. Everything is looking good. As of right now, we are ‘go’ for launch.”
At the launch complex, SpaceX teams continue to prepare for liftoff. Prior to tomorrow’s targeted launch, SpaceX is bringing the rocket horizontal to perform additional preflight checkouts of Falcon 9, Crew Dragon, and the ground support system, including an inspection of the ground-side chilled water radiator feed that keeps Crew Dragon cool before launch. These checkouts do not impact the flight system or targeted launch date, and the vehicle is scheduled to return to vertical later tonight.
The U.S. Air Force 45th Weather Squadron now predicts a 60% chance of favorable weather conditions for NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 launch — a change from the previous days’ projections, which called for a 40% chance of “go” conditions. The primary weather concerns for launch are flight through precipitation, anvil and cumulus clouds.
“We are so proud and happy for Doug and Bob. It feels kind of like one of your close family members having a great lifetime achievement — and really, that’s what it is,” said astronaut Nicole Mann, herself a member of the NASA astronaut team slated to fly on a future Commercial Crew Program launch on Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft. “I can speak for the astronaut office — that’s how we all feel, so proud for everything that they’ve accomplished with the NASA and SpaceX team to get ready for this launch.”
This will be SpaceX’s final test flight for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program and will provide critical data on the performance of the Falcon 9 rocket, Crew Dragon spacecraft, and ground systems, as well as in-orbit, docking, and landing operations.
“That’s at the core of what we’re doing here today, to continue the incredible legacy of work that we’ve done on the International Space Station,” said NASA astronaut Kjell Lindgren, who flew to the station in 2015 aboard a Roscosmos Soyuz spacecraft as part of the Expedition 44/45 crew. “We’ve had humans living and working on that orbital outpost for almost 20 years, conducting science and research to extend our presence in the solar system and to improve life back here on Earth. This launch represents an extension of that capability.”
Bridenstine acknowledged the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the nation, even its influence on the briefing itself, as he and other briefers sat several feet apart, speaking to cameras in an auditorium empty of press.
“We would love to have this room full. We would love to have reporters; we’d love to have it filled with space enthusiasts,” he said. “Our country has been through a lot. But this is a unique moment when all of America can take a moment and look at our country do something stunning again, and that is to launch American astronauts on an American rocket from American soil to the space station.”
NASA and SpaceX will provide live coverage of the launch activities beginning Wednesday, May 27, at 12:15 p.m., leading up to liftoff and through arrival at the space station at 11:39 a.m. on Thursday, May 28.