Crew Dragon’s Launch Escape System is Armed

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

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.

Team ‘Go’ to Load Propellants into the SpaceX Falcon 9 Rocket

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
The crew access arm, at right, moves away from the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft.
The crew access arm, at right, moves away from the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft. Image credit: NASA TV

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.

Where Will the Station Be at Launch Time?

International Space Station in low-Earth orbit
In this image from October 2018, the fully completed station continues its mission to conduct microgravity research and experiments — ranging from human physiology to astronomy aboard humanity’s only orbital laboratory. Photo credit: NASA

NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 mission is targeted to lift off at 4:33 p.m. EDT. At that time, the International Space Station will be flying at an altitude of 256 miles over Iraq, west of Baghdad.

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.”