Excitement, Emotion Abound on Eve of Historic Demo-2 Mission

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, with the Crew Dragon atop, stands poised for launch at historic Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on May 21, 2020, ahead of NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 mission.
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, with the Crew Dragon atop, stands poised for launch at historic Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on May 21, 2020, ahead of NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 mission. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

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.

NASA officials sit several feet apart in Kennedy Space Center's press site auditorium on Tuesday, May 26, for a briefing. From left to right are Center Director Bob Cabana; NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine; NASA astronauts Nicole Mann and Kjell Lindgren; and NASA Deputy Administrator Jim Morhard.
NASA officials sit several feet apart in Kennedy Space Center’s press site auditorium on Tuesday, May 26, for a briefing. From left to right are Center Director Bob Cabana; NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine; NASA astronauts Nicole Mann and Kjell Lindgren; and NASA Deputy Administrator Jim Morhard. Image credit: NASA TV

“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.

While docked to the space station, Behnken and Hurley will join the Expedition 63 crew already on board the orbiting laboratory: astronaut Chris Cassidy and cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner.

“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.

NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2: Preflight Checkouts, NASA Administrator Briefing and Launch Weather

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, with Crew Dragon atop, stands poised for launch at historic Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on May 21, 2020, ahead of NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 mission. The rocket and spacecraft will carry NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley to the International Space Station as part of the agency’s Commercial Crew Program, returning human spaceflight capability to the U.S. after nearly a decade.

Only one day remains until the planned liftoff of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon spacecraft carrying two American astronauts, Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley, on NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 mission for the agency’s Commercial Crew Program. Liftoff is targeted for Wednesday, May 27, at 4:33 p.m. EDT from historic Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The launch window is instantaneous.

Prior to tomorrow’s targeted launch of the Crew Demo-2 mission, SpaceX will bring 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. Today’s checkouts do not impact the flight system or targeted launch date, and the vehicle is scheduled to go vertical later tonight.

Tune in to NASA TV and watch online at 10 a.m. EDT as NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana, and astronauts Kjell Lindgren and Nicole Mann discuss the upcoming SpaceX Demo-2 mission to the International Space Station and answer questions from reporters.

The U.S. Air Force 45th Weather Squadron now predicts a 60% chance of favorable weather conditions for NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 launch. The primary weather concerns for launch are flight through precipitation, anvil and cumulus clouds.

FORECAST DETAILS

Clouds                      Coverage           Bases (feet)             Tops (feet)
Cumulus                    Scattered            3,000                          10,000
Cirrostratus                 Broken             25,000                       28,000

Weather/Visibility:  Rain showers/5 miles
Temperature:  82 degrees

NASA and SpaceX will provide live coverage of the launch activities beginning Wednesday, May 27 at 12:15 p.m. leading up to the lift off of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket propelling the SpaceX Crew Dragon carrying NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley on their way to the International Space Station.

NASA and SpaceX will provide joint, live coverage from launch through arrival at the space station at 11:39 a.m. on Thursday, May 28.

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.

NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 ‘Go’ for Liftoff Wednesday After Today’s Launch Readiness Review

Demo-2 media teleconference
Representatives from NASA, SpaceX and the U.S. Air Force 45th Weather Squadron participate in a media teleconference following the Launch Readiness Review at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Monday, May 25, 2020, in advance of NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 flight test to the International Space Station as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. From left to right are: Norm Knight, deputy director, NASA Johnson Space Center Flight Operations; Kathy Lueders, manager, NASA Commercial Crew Program; Kirk Shireman, manager, International Space Station Program; Hans Koenigsmann, vice president, Build and Flight Reliability, SpaceX; and Mike McAleenan, launch weather officer, 45th Weather Squadron. Photo credit: NASA/Cory Huston

NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 mission passed its final major review today at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, and teams received the “go” to proceed toward launch. Liftoff of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon spacecraft, carrying NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley, is scheduled for Wednesday, May 27, at 4:33 p.m. EDT from Kennedy’s Launch Complex 39A.

The mission will return human spaceflight to the International Space Station from U.S. soil on an American rocket and spacecraft as a part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. 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.

“We’re burning down the final paper. All the teams are a go, and we’re continuing to progress toward our mission,” said Kathy Lueders, manager, NASA Commercial Crew Program. “I’m very proud of the team. We are continuing to be vigilant and careful, and make sure we do this right.”

In this morning’s official forecast, the U.S. Air Force 45th Weather Squadron predicted a 60% chance of unfavorable weather conditions for the Demo-2 mission. The primary weather concerns that could prevent launch are flight through precipitation, thick and cumulus clouds.

However, 45th Weather Squadron Launch Weather Officer Mike McAleenan pointed out things are looking up.

“It certainly has been trending better over the last day or two for launch weather,” McAleenan said. “If I was to issue the forecast today, right now, we would probably be down to 40% chance of violation.”

Crew members Behnken and Hurley remain in quarantine, a routine part of prelaunch preparations for astronauts journeying into space. On Saturday, they took part in a full dress rehearsal of launch day, including suiting up and climbing aboard the Crew Dragon at Launch Complex 39A.

“It was a really good review today, and from a crew perspective, we were very happy with the discussions that took place — the thoroughness of the review,” said Norm Knight, deputy director, Flight Operations, NASA Johnson Space Center. “We’re definitely ready to press forward.”

Upon arriving at the space station, Behnken and Hurley will join the Expedition 63 crew 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 on future missions of remaining connected to the station for up to 210 days.

“I think the on-orbit crew is definitely ready for some company, and very much looking forward to the launch this Wednesday,” said Kirk Shireman, manager, NASA International Space Station Program. “The ISS team is ready to support the docking of Crew Dragon.”

The specific duration for this mission will be determined after arrival based on the readiness of the next commercial crew launch. Finally, the mission will conclude with the Crew Dragon undocking from the station, deorbiting and returning Behnken and Hurley to Earth with a safe splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean.

SpaceX Crew Dragon Arrives for Demo-2 Mission

The SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft for Demo-2 arrived at the launch site on Feb. 13, 2020.
The SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft for Demo-2 arrived at the launch site on Feb. 13, 2020. Photo credit: SpaceX

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.

In-Flight Abort Pretest News Conference Underway at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center

In-Flight Abort Pretest News Conference
From left to right, Kathy Lueders, manager, NASA Commercial Crew Program; Benji Reed, director, Crew Mission Management, SpaceX; and Mike McAleenan, launch weather officer, 45th Weather Squadron; participate in NASA and SpaceX’s in-flight abort pretest news conference at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. Photo credit: NASA

The pretest news conference for NASA and SpaceX’s in-flight abort demonstration is ongoing at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Tune in to NASA TV or the agency’s website to view the event.

Participants are:

  • Kathy Lueders, manager, NASA Commercial Crew Program
  • Benji Reed, director Crew Mission Management, SpaceX
  • Mike McAleenan, launch weather officer, 45th Space Wing

In-flight abort is scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 18, at 8 a.m. EST. There is a four-hour test window; liftoff will be from Kennedy’s Launch Complex 39A. The demonstration will be broadcast live on NASA TV and the agency’s website.

Tune in for This Afternoon’s NASA and SpaceX In-Flight Abort Pretest Briefing

SpaceX illustration of in-flight abort test
Illustration of the SpaceX Crew Dragon and Falcon 9 rocket during the company’s uncrewed In-Flight Abort Test for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. Illustration credit: SpaceX

A pretest briefing for SpaceX’s in-flight abort demonstration will take place today at 1 p.m., at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The briefing will be broadcast on NASA Television, and can been viewed on the agency’s website. Participants include:

  • Kathy Lueders, manager, NASA Commercial Crew Program
  • Benji Reed, director Crew Mission Management, SpaceX
  • Mike McAleenan, launch weather officer, 45th Space Wing

Meteorologists with the U.S. Air Force 45th Space Wing predict a 90% chance of favorable weather for tomorrow’s in-flight abort test. The primary concerns for launch day are the flight through precipitation rule during Saturday’s four-hour launch window, which opens at 8 a.m. EST.

The flight test is planned to demonstrate Crew Dragon’s ability to safely escape the Falcon 9 rocket in the event of a failure during launch. More details about the mission and NASA’s Commercial Crew Program can be found in the press kit online at https://www.nasa.gov/specials/ccp-press-kit/main.html and by following the commercial crew blog, @commercial_crew and commercial crew on Facebook.

Early Weather Reports Positive for SpaceX In-Flight Abort Test

SpaceX In-Flight Abort Test preview
In-flight abort is the final, major test before astronauts fly aboard SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket to the International Space Station as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. Photo credit: SpaceX

With the launch of SpaceX’s in-flight abort demonstration three days away, early weather reports are promising. According to Mike McAleenan, a launch weather officer with the U.S. Air Force 45th Space Wing, there is a 90 percent chance of favorable weather at liftoff. The primary concern is flight through precipitation, as some shallow coastal rain showers are predicted.

NASA and SpaceX are targeting no earlier than Saturday, Jan. 18, for the In-Flight Abort Test from Launch Complex 39A in Florida. The four-hour test window starts at 8 a.m. EST. The test will demonstrate the escape capabilities of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft — showing that the crew system can protect astronauts even in the unlikely event of an emergency during launch.

In-flight abort is the final, major test before astronauts fly aboard the Crew Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket to the International Space Station as part of the agency’s Commercial Crew Program. For this test, SpaceX will configure Crew Dragon to intentionally trigger a launch escape prior to 1 minute, 30 seconds into flight to demonstrate Crew Dragon’s capability to safely separate from the Falcon 9 rocket in the unlikely event of an in-flight emergency.

Live coverage will begin on NASA Television and the agency’s website Friday, Jan. 17, with a pretest briefing. Watch live coverage at www.nasa.gov/nasalive.

Successful Static Tests Set Stage for Key In-Flight Abort Demonstration

SpaceX In-flight abort test
The uncrewed in-flight abort demonstration is targeted for 8 a.m. EST Saturday, Jan. 18, from Launch Complex 39A in Florida. There is a four-hour test window. Photo credit: SpaceX

NASA and SpaceX are preparing to launch the final, major test before astronauts fly aboard the Crew Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket to the International Space Station as part of the agency’s Commercial Crew Program. The test, known as in-flight abort, will demonstrate the spacecraft’s escape capabilities — showing that the crew system can protect astronauts even in the unlikely event of an emergency during launch. The uncrewed flight test is targeted for 8 a.m. EST Saturday, Jan. 18, at the start of a four-hour test window, from Launch Complex 39A in Florida.

SpaceX performed a full-duration static test Saturday, Jan. 11, of the Falcon 9 and completed a static fire of the Crew Dragon on Nov. 13, setting the stage for the critical flight test.

Prior to launch, SpaceX and NASA teams will practice launch day end-to-end operations with NASA astronauts, including final spacecraft inspections and side hatch closeout. Additionally, SpaceX and NASA flight controllers along with support teams will be staged as they will for future Crew Dragon missions, helping the integrated launch team gain additional experience beyond existing simulations and training events.

After liftoff, Falcon 9’s ascent will follow a trajectory that will mimic a Crew Dragon mission to the International Space Station matching the physical environments the rocket and spacecraft will encounter during a normal ascent.

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