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.
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.
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.