Crew Members Climb Aboard Crew Dragon

NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 crew members Robert Behnken, left, and Douglas Hurley inside the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft at Launch Complex 39A. Image credit: NASA TV

NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 crew is now onboard!

Demo-2 spacecraft commander Douglas Hurley entered the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft first, followed shortly after by Demo-2 joint operations commander Robert Behnken, who sits to Hurley’s right. SpaceX technicians are helping them get situated and buckled in.

As the astronauts board, their seats are configured in the upright position; later, prior to closure of the spacecraft’s side hatch, the seats will be rotated into a reclined position for flight.

During their time in the White Room – a sealed, clean space that prevents humidity or contaminants from getting into the spacecraft while the hatch is open – the astronauts paused to sign the wall above a NASA logo.

Historic Launch Complex 39A

The SpaceX Falcon 9 and Crew Dragon spacecraft stand on Launch Complex 39A on May 27, 2020.
The SpaceX Falcon 9 and Crew Dragon spacecraft stand on Launch Complex 39A on May 27, 2020. Image credit: NASA TV
In this photo taken March 3, 2010, space shuttle Discovery has just arrived at Launch Complex 39A for the STS-131 mission.
In this photo taken March 3, 2010, space shuttle Discovery has just arrived at Launch Complex 39A for the STS-131 mission. The center structure, topped by the lightning mast, is the fixed service structure; the rotating service structure is at left. SpaceX has modified and upgraded the pad to support its Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets. Photo credit: NASA

Today’s launch of NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 mission will kick off a new chapter for Launch Complex 39A.

This was the launch site for 11 Apollo/Saturn V missions, including Apollo 11, which carried the first astronauts to land on the Moon. The pad also was the launch site for 82 space shuttle missions, including STS-1, the first shuttle launch; the STS-125 final servicing mission for the Hubble Space Telescope; STS-135, the final shuttle mission; and many more throughout the program’s 30-year span.

The Apollo 11 Saturn V space vehicle lifts off with Astronauts Neil A. Armstrong, Michael Collins and Edwin E. Aldrin Jr. at 9:32 a.m. EDT on July 16, 1969, from Kennedy's Launch Complex 39A.
The Apollo 11 Saturn V space vehicle lifts off with Astronauts Neil A. Armstrong, Michael Collins and Edwin E. Aldrin Jr. at 9:32 a.m. EDT on July 16, 1969, from Kennedy’s Launch Complex 39A. Photo credit: NASA

After the space shuttle was retired in 2011, NASA began the process to transform Kennedy Space Center from a historically government-only launch facility into a multi-user spaceport for both government and commercial use. On April 14, 2014, the agency signed a property agreement with SpaceX of Hawthorne, California, for use of the launch site for the next 20 years. SpaceX upgraded and modified the launch pad to support its Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets. The company also built a horizontal processing hangar at the base of the pad to perform final vehicle integration prior to flight.

Because of NASA’s partnership with SpaceX within the agency’s Commercial Crew Program, Launch Complex 39A will once again be the site of crewed missions to the space station.

 

SpaceX Demo-2 Crew Walks Out of O&C Ready for Ride to Launch Pad 39A

Image credit: NASA TV

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.

Astronauts Suited for NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 Launch

NASA astronauts Robert Behnken, left, and Douglas Hurley talk to NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, far left, and SpaceX's Elon Musk inside the suit room in Kennedy Space Center's Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building.
NASA astronauts Robert Behnken, left, and Douglas Hurley talk to NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, far left, and SpaceX CEO and Chief Designer Elon Musk inside the suit room in Kennedy Space Center’s Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building. Image credit: NASA TV

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.

Introducing Astronaut Robert L. Behnken

NASA astronaut Robert Behnken.
NASA astronaut Robert Behnken. Photo credit: SpaceX
NASA astronaut Robert Behnken, STS-130 mission specialist, participates in the mission’s second spacewalk on Feb. 14, 2010, to continue construction and maintenance on the International Space Station.
NASA astronaut Robert Behnken, STS-130 mission specialist, participates in the mission’s second spacewalk on Feb. 14, 2010, to continue construction and maintenance on the International Space Station. Photo credit: NASA

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.

NASA astronauts Doug Hurley, left, and Bob Behnken watch the liftoff of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon spacecraft on the uncrewed In-Flight Abort Test, Jan. 19, 2020, inside Firing Room 4 in Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Control Center.
NASA astronauts Doug Hurley, left, and Bob Behnken watch the liftoff of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon spacecraft on the uncrewed In-Flight Abort Test, Jan. 19, 2020, inside Firing Room 4 in Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Control Center. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

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.”

Introducing Astronaut Douglas G. Hurley

NASA astronaut Douglas Hurley.
NASA astronaut Douglas Hurley. Photo credit: SpaceX
Astronaut Doug Hurley, STS-127 pilot, is pictured at space shuttle Endeavour's aft flight deck controls during flight day five operations with hardware on the International Space Station, July 19, 2009.
Astronaut Doug Hurley, STS-127 pilot, is pictured at space shuttle Endeavour’s aft flight deck controls during flight day five operations with hardware on the International Space Station, July 19, 2009. Photo credit: NASA

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.

NASA astronauts Doug Hurley, left, and Bob Behnken, seated at consoles inside SpaceX Mission Control in Hawthorne, California, monitor the Crew Dragon spacecraft static fire engine tests taking place at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on Nov. 13, 2019.
NASA astronauts Doug Hurley, left, and Bob Behnken, seated at consoles inside SpaceX Mission Control in Hawthorne, California, monitor the Crew Dragon spacecraft static fire engine tests taking place at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on Nov. 13, 2019. Photo credit: SpaceX

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.”

Crewmates and Friends Prepare for Demo-2 Flight Test

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

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.”

Behnken and Hurley Prepare to Suit Up

NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley participate in a SpaceX test of crew flight hardware
On Monday, March 30, 2020 at a SpaceX processing facility on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, SpaceX successfully completed a fully integrated test of critical crew flight hardware ahead of Crew Dragon’s second demonstration mission to the International Space Station for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program; the first flight test with astronauts onboard the spacecraft. NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley participated in the test, which included flight suit leak checks, spacecraft sound verification, display panel and cargo bin inspections, seat hardware rotations, and more. Photo credit: SpaceX

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.

First Flight of the Commercial Crew Era Builds on Earlier Successes

The uncrewed SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft became the first Commercial Crew vehicle to visit the International Space Station in March 2019 during NASA's SpaceX Demo-1 mission. Here it is pictured on March 3, 2019, with its nose cone open to reveal its docking mechanism while approaching the station's Harmony module.
The uncrewed SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft became the first Commercial Crew vehicle to visit the International Space Station in March 2019 during NASA’s SpaceX Demo-1 mission. Here it is pictured on March 3, 2019, with its nose cone open to reveal its docking mechanism while approaching the station’s Harmony module. Photo credit: NASA
SpaceX’s Crew Dragon is guided by four parachutes toward the Atlantic Ocean on March 8, 2019, after returning from the International Space Station on NASA's SpaceX Demo-1 mission.
SpaceX’s Crew Dragon is guided by four parachutes toward the Atlantic Ocean on March 8, 2019, after returning from the International Space Station on NASA’s SpaceX Demo-1 mission. Photo credit: NASA/Cory Huston

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.

NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken familiarize themselves with SpaceX’s Crew Dragon, the spacecraft that will transport them to the International Space Station as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.
NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken familiarize themselves with SpaceX’s Crew Dragon, the spacecraft that will transport them to the International Space Station as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. Photo credit: SpaceX

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.

NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2: Countdown Coverage Starts Now

SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon stand at Launch Complex 39A on May 27, 2020 ahead of NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 launch. Image credit: NASA TV

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.

NASA astronauts Robert Behnken (left) and Doug Hurley will launch to the International Space Station on the Demo-2 mission – the crew flight test of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon.
NASA astronauts Robert Behnken (left) and Doug Hurley will launch to the International Space Station on the Demo-2 mission. Image credit: SpaceX/Ashish Sharma

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.