The Crew Dragon’s launch escape system (LES), consisting of a set of eight SuperDraco engines integrated into the spacecraft’s body, has been armed in preparation for launch. The LES is designed to separate the spacecraft from the Falcon 9 rocket and carry the crew away to safety in the unlikely event of an emergency.
The system was tested during January’s uncrewed In-Flight Abort Test to show the Crew Dragon’s capability to safely separate from the Falcon 9 rocket. For that test, SpaceX configured Crew Dragon to trigger a launch escape about a minute and a half after liftoff. All major functions were performed, including separation, engine firings, parachute deployment and landing. Crew Dragon splashed down just off the Florida coast in the Atlantic Ocean.
SpaceX Launch Director Mike Taylor just verified the launch team is “go” to begin loading the Falcon 9 rocket’s propellants – liquid oxygen and a refined, rocket-grade kerosene called RP-1 – into the rocket’s first and second stages. That should begin in about 10 minutes.
The crew access arm that provided a walkway for the SpaceX Demo-2 crew earlier today is being retracted away from the rocket.
The rocket and Crew Dragon spacecraft are in good shape; the team continues to monitor weather.
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.
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.”