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.

NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 Launch Readiness Review Complete; Media Teleconference at 6 p.m. EDT

The Launch Readiness Review for NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 mission has concluded at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. NASA and SpaceX key managers have given the “go” for launch on a mission that 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.

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.

A media teleconference is scheduled for 6 p.m. EDT. Live audio of the Demo-2 mission patchteleconference will be streamed at http://www.nasa.gov/live.

Participants are:

  • Kathy Lueders, manager, NASA Commercial Crew Program
  • Kirk Shireman, manager, NASA International Space Station Program
  • Hans Koenigsmann, vice president, Build and Flight Reliability, SpaceX
  • Norm Knight, deputy director, Flight Operations, NASA Johnson Space Center
  • Mike McAleenan, launch weather officer, 45th Weather Squadron

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. During the mission, the crew and SpaceX mission controllers will verify the performance of the spacecraft’s environmental control system, displays and control system, maneuvering thrusters, autonomous docking capability, and more.

Behnken and Hurley will join the Expedition 63 crew on the station 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. 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.

NASA, SpaceX Complete Final Major Flight Test of Crew Spacecraft

SpaceX in-flight abort test
NASA and SpaceX completed a launch escape demonstration of the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket on Jan. 19, 2020. The test began at 10:30 a.m. EST with liftoff from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on a mission to show the spacecraft’s capability to safely separate from the rocket in the unlikely event of an inflight emergency. Credits: NASA Television
Watch the prelaunch activities and launch

NASA and SpaceX completed a launch escape demonstration of the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket Sunday. This was the final major flight test of the spacecraft before it begins carrying astronauts to the International Space Station under NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

The launch escape test began at 10:30 a.m. EST with liftoff from historic Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on a mission to show the spacecraft’s capability to safely separate from the rocket in the unlikely event of an inflight emergency.

“This critical flight test puts us on the cusp of returning the capability to launch astronauts in American spacecraft on American rockets from American soil,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “We are thrilled with the progress NASA’s Commercial Crew Program is making and look forward to the next milestone for Crew Dragon.”

As part of the test, SpaceX configured Crew Dragon to trigger a launch escape about 1.5 minutes after liftoff. All major functions were executed, including separation, engine firings, parachute deployment and landing. Crew Dragon splashed down at 10:38 a.m. just off the Florida coast in the Atlantic Ocean.

“As far as we can tell thus far, it’s a picture perfect mission. It went as well as one can possibly expect,” said Elon Musk, chief engineer at SpaceX. “This is a reflection of the dedication and hard work of the SpaceX and NASA teams to achieve this goal. Obviously, I’m super fired up. This is great.”

Teams of personnel from SpaceX and the U.S. Air Force 45th Operations Group’s Detachment-3 out of Patrick Air Force Base will recover the spacecraft for return to SpaceX facilities in Florida and begin the recovery effort of the Falcon 9, which broke apart as planned.

“The past few days have been an incredible experience for us,” said astronaut Doug Hurley. “We started with a full dress rehearsal of what Bob and I will do for our mission. Today, we watched the demonstration of a system that we hope to never use, but can save lives if we ever do. It took a lot of work between NASA and SpaceX to get to this point, and we can’t wait to take a ride to the space station soon.”

Prior to the flight test, teams completed launch day procedures for the first crewed flight test, from suit-up to launch pad operations. The joint teams now will begin the full data reviews that need to be completed prior to NASA astronauts flying the system during SpaceX’s Demo-2 mission.

NASA’s Commercial Crew Program is working with the American aerospace industry as companies develop and operate a new generation of spacecraft and launch systems capable of carrying crews to low-Earth orbit and the International Space Station. Commercial human space transportation to and from the station will provide expanded utility, additional research time and broader opportunities for discovery on the orbiting laboratory. The program also has the benefit of facilitating and promoting for America a vibrant economy in low-Earth orbit.

In-Flight Abort Post-Test News Conference Underway

A post-test news conference for NASA and SpaceX’s in-flight abort demonstration is taking place at NASA’s Kennedy Space Station in Florida.

An update from SpaceX and NASA officials, including NASA Commercial Crew Program astronauts Victor Glover and Mike Hopkins, is underway. Tune in to the post-test news conference, which is being broadcast live from Kennedy Space Center in Florida on NASA TV and the agency’s website. Participants include:

  • NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine
  • Kathy Lueders, manager, NASA’s Commercial Crew Program
  • Elon Musk, chief engineering, SpaceX
  • Victor Glover, astronaut, NASA Commercial Crew Program
  • Mike Hopkins, astronaut, NASA Commercial Crew Program

Today’s in-flight abort blogging will conclude with a wrap-up post featuring comments from the post-test news conference.

Post-Test News Conference No Earlier Than 11:30 a.m. EST

SpaceX's In-Flight Abort Test
NASA and SpaceX successfully completed the in-flight abort test. The Crew Dragon spacecraft is now in the process of being recovered from the Atlantic Ocean. A post-test news conference is scheduled for today, no earlier than 11:30 EST.

The SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft splashed down offshore in the Atlantic Ocean at 10:39 a.m. EST after a launch on the company’s Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Teams of personnel from SpaceX and the U.S. Air Force 45th Operations Groups Detachment-3 out of Patrick Air Force Base will recover the spacecraft for return to SpaceX facilities in Florida, and a dedicated team will begin the recovery effort of the Falcon 9, which broke apart as planned.

Next up on NASA television and the agency’s website:

  • 11:30 a.m. (no earlier than) – Post-test news conference at Kennedy, with the following representatives:
    • NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine
    • Elon Musk, chief engineering, SpaceX
    • Kathy Lueders, manager, NASA Commercial Crew Program
    • Victor Glover, astronaut, NASA Commercial Crew Program
    • Mike Hopkins, astronaut, NASA Commercial Crew Program

Today’s in-flight abort blogging will conclude with a wrap-up post featuring comments from the post-test news conference.

Learn more about NASA’s Commercial Crew Program by following the commercial crew blog, @commercial_crew and commercial crew on Facebook.

Spacecraft Splashes Down Safely in the Atlantic Ocean

SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule has splashed down into the ocean! The test was completed in less than 10 minutes.

The next step is recovery of the spacecraft. That process is expected to take approximately two hours.

Stay tuned for a preview of the post-test news conference.

Crew Dragon Chutes Deploy

SpaceX In-Flight Abort Test
Crew Dragon’s drogue and main parachutes will enable the spacecraft to have a soft landing in the Atlantic Ocean.

Crew Dragon’s parachutes have deployed and the spacecraft is descending toward the Atlantic Ocean.

Splashdown is expected in about six minutes.

Liftoff! SpaceX’s In-Flight Abort Test Underway

SpaceX In-Flight Abort Test
SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket lifts off from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Sunday, Jan. 19, 2020.

We have liftoff! A Falcon 9 rocket has blasted off from Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A, carrying the Crew Dragon spacecraft for NASA and SpaceX’s in-flight abort test.

Crew Dragon separation should occur at 1 minute, 24 seconds, followed by the spacecraft’s trunk deploy less than 40 seconds later.