NASA and SpaceX Teams Prepare for Crew-1 Mission

Crew-1 astronauts in training
NASA’s SpaceX Crew-1 astronauts participate in crew equipment interface testing at SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California, on Sept. 24, 2020. From left are mission specialist Shannon Walker, pilot Victor Glover, and Crew Dragon commander Michael Hopkins, all NASA astronauts, and mission specialist Soichi Noguchi, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut. Photo credit: SpaceX

By Jim Cawley
NASA’s Kennedy Space Center

Teams involved with NASA’s SpaceX Crew-1 mission held a series of briefings Tuesday at the agency’s Johnson Space Center about the first crew rotation mission to the International Space Station as part of the agency’s Commercial Crew Program. The mission is targeted to launch at 2:40 a.m. EDT Saturday, Oct. 31, on SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

NASA astronauts Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover, and Shannon Walker, along with Soichi Noguchi of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), will be the first international crew to launch on the new, commercially owned and operated American system.

“What’s exciting about this upcoming mission is that we are actually going to fly a certified Crew Dragon,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “This is another milestone; a critical milestone in the development of our ability to launch American astronauts on American rockets from American soil — now sustainably.”

Crew-1 preflight briefing
From left, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, Kathy Lueders, associate administrator, Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, NASA Headquarters, and Hans Koenigsmann, vice president, Build and Flight Reliability, SpaceX, participate in a Crew-1 preflight briefing on Sept. 29, 2020. NASA image

NASA and SpaceX are in the final stages of the certification reviews following the agency’s SpaceX Demo-2 test flight to the space station with astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley, which is helping verify the end-to-end capabilities, including launch, docking and return to Earth.

Teams currently are completing and applying lessons learned from Demo-2 and other test flights, including redesign of a small area of the thermal protection system around the trunk attachments, modifications to the ventilation system on the nosecone of the Dragon spacecraft, and design adjustment for measuring the barometric pressure used for parachute deployment. The teams also are coordinating with the U.S. Coast Guard to ensure crew safety upon splashdown, including extra ships and air assets to patrol the “keep out” zone to mitigate safety concerns for boaters approaching the landing area.

“This is a great milestone for us; it’s a culmination of many, many years of work with NASA and SpaceX,” said Kathy Lueders, associate administrator, Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, NASA Headquarters. “This has been a dream of ours to have commercial crew rotation seats up on the station, and we’re looking forward to many more to come.”

After certification, Crew Dragon will be the first commercial system in history capable of transporting humans to and from the space station.

“This is all leading up to the big operational cadence that we’re about to move into — and this is super cool,” said Benji Reed, senior director, Human Spaceflight Programs, SpaceX. “We’re at a point now where we are in the final lane; we’re getting ready for this launch.”

Crew-1 astronauts
From left, Crew-1 astronauts Shannon Walker, Victor Glover, Michael Hopkins and Soichi Noguchi announced Sept. 29, 2020, that the name of their spaceship is Resilience. NASA image

Following an Oct. 31 launch, the Crew-1 astronauts are scheduled to arrive at the space station the next day to join NASA astronaut Kate Rubins, as well as Expedition 64 commander Sergey Ryzhikov and flight engineer Sergey Kud-Sverchkov, both of the Russian space agency Roscosmos.

“It’s going to be an exciting time onboard the space station,” said Kenny Todd, deputy manager, International Space Station, NASA’s Johnson Space Center. “We’re looking forward to getting up to seven crew.”

Hopkins, Glover, Walker, and Noguchi will become the first crew to fly a full-duration mission to the space station on SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft for a six-month stay on the orbiting laboratory. For the first time, the space station’s crew will expand to seven people with Expedition 64, increasing the amount of crew time available for research.

As commander of the Crew Dragon spacecraft and the Crew-1 mission, Hopkins is responsible for all phases of flight, from launch to re-entry. He also will serve as an Expedition 64 flight engineer aboard the station. The Crew-1 astronauts named the spacecraft Resilience, highlighting the dedication the teams involved with the mission have displayed and demonstrating that when we work together, there is no limit to what we can achieve.

“As you look at the definition of resilience, I know it means functioning well in times of stress or overcoming adverse events, and I think all of us can agree that 2020 certainly has been a challenging year,” Hopkins said.

“So the name ‘Resilience’ is really in honor of the SpaceX and NASA teams, and quite frankly, it’s in honor of our families, of our colleagues, of our fellow citizens, of our international partners and our leaders that have all shown that same quality — that same characteristic — through these difficult times.”

As mission specialists, Walker and Noguchi will work closely with the commander and pilot to monitor the vehicle during the dynamic launch and re-entry phases of flight. Both are spaceflight veterans: Dragon will be the third spacecraft on which Noguchi has traveled (he flew aboard NASA’s space shuttle and a Russian Soyuz spacecraft), while Walker has spent 161 days on the orbiting laboratory.

“It’s been a very intense six months’ worth of training, but we are ready, and I am very excited to get back to the space station,” Walker said. “My experience of having already lived and worked there will give me a huge head start and make me much more efficient.”

Noguchi expressed the significance of teamwork and diversity, adding further meaning to the spacecraft’s new name.

“All of us are contributing to this wonderful team; everybody brings something to the table,” Noguchi said. “This diversity definitely brings the team’s resilience.”

For almost 20 years, humans have continuously lived and worked aboard the International Space Station, advancing scientific knowledge and demonstrating new technologies that enable us to prepare for human exploration to the Moon and Mars. NASA is enabling economic growth in low-Earth orbit to open access to space to more people, more science, and more companies than ever before.

“To be able to live on the space station for six months and during that time to be there for the 20th anniversary of human presence on the space station — and to potentially launch on the 20th anniversary of the launch of Expedition 1 — is just special,” said Glover, pilot of the Crew Dragon and second-in-command for the mission. “[It] relates to something Mike said earlier — that the power of teamwork, when we come together to work on the same thing, there’s no limit to what we can accomplish. It is truly a privilege.”

NASA, SpaceX to Launch First Commercial Crew Rotation Mission to International Space Station

NASA's SpaceX Crew-1 astronauts
The SpaceX Crew-1 crew members (from left) NASA astronauts Shannon Walker, Victor Glover, Mike Hopkins, and JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) astronaut Soichi Noguchi.
Credits: SpaceX

NASA and SpaceX are beginning a regular cadence of missions with astronauts launching on an American rocket from American soil to the International Space Station as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. NASA’s SpaceX Crew-1 is the first crew rotation mission with four astronauts flying on a commercial spacecraft, and the first including an international partner.

NASA astronauts Michael HopkinsVictor GloverShannon Walker, and Soichi Noguchi of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) are set to launch to the space station on SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket. The Crew-1 astronauts named the spacecraft Resilience, highlighting the dedication the teams involved with the mission have displayed and to demonstrate that when we work together, there is no limit to what we can achieve. They named it in honor of their families, colleagues, and fellow citizens.

Launch is targeted for Saturday, Oct. 31, from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The crew is scheduled for a long duration stay aboard the orbiting laboratory, conducting science and maintenance. The four astronauts are set to return in spring 2021.

Click here to read the complete feature.

Preparations Continue for SpaceX First Operational Flight with Astronauts

Mission specialist Shannon Walker, left, pilot Victor Glover, Crew Dragon commander Michael Hopkins – all NASA astronauts – and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut and mission specialist Soichi Noguchi, right, will launch to the International Space Station on the agency’s SpaceX Crew-1 mission.
Mission specialist Shannon Walker, left, pilot Victor Glover, Crew Dragon commander Michael Hopkins – all NASA astronauts – and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut and mission specialist Soichi Noguchi, right, will launch to the International Space Station on the agency’s SpaceX Crew-1 mission. Photo credit: NASA/Norah Moran

The SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft for the company’s first operational flight with astronauts to the International Space Station as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program arrived in Florida Tuesday, Aug. 18. The upcoming flight, known as NASA’s SpaceX Crew-1 mission, will be the first of regular rotational missions to the space station following completion of NASA certification.

The Crew Dragon spacecraft will launch atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida no earlier than Oct. 23, 2020. The spacecraft made its journey from the SpaceX factory in Hawthorne, California over the weekend and is now undergoing prelaunch processing in the company’s facility on nearby Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

Preparations are also underway for the mission’s Falcon 9 rocket. SpaceX completed a successful static fire test of the rocket’s second stage at its facility in McGregor, Texas, also on Tuesday. The Falcon 9 first stage booster arrived at the launch site in Florida in July to begin its final launch preparations.

The Crew-1 mission will send Crew Dragon commander Michael Hopkins, pilot Victor Glover, and mission specialist Shannon Walker, all of NASA, along with Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) mission specialist Soichi Noguchi to the orbiting laboratory for a six-month science mission.

NASA, SpaceX Targeting October for Next Astronaut Launch

NASA’s SpaceX Crew-1 crew members are seen seated in the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft during training. From left to right are NASA astronauts Shannon Walker, Victor Glover, and Mike Hopkins, and JAXA astronaut Soichi Noguchi. Photo credit: SpaceX
NASA’s SpaceX Crew-1 crew members are seen seated in the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft during crew equipment interface training. From left to right are NASA astronauts Shannon Walker, mission specialist; Victor Glover, pilot; and Mike Hopkins, Crew Dragon commander; and JAXA astronaut Soichi Noguchi, mission specialist. Photo credit: SpaceX

NASA and SpaceX are targeting no earlier than Oct. 23 for the first operational flight with astronauts of the Crew Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket to the International Space Station as a part of the agency’s Commercial Crew Program. NASA’s SpaceX Crew-1 mission will be the first of regular rotational missions to the space station following completion of NASA certification.

The mission will carry Crew Dragon commander Michael Hopkins, pilot Victor Glover, and mission specialist Shannon Walker, all of NASA, along with Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) mission specialist Soichi Noguchi for a six-month science mission aboard the orbiting laboratory following launch from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Crew-1 will launch in late October to accommodate spacecraft traffic for the upcoming Soyuz crew rotation and best meet the needs of the International Space Station. Launch will follow the arrival of NASA astronaut Kate Rubins and cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov of the Russian space agency Roscosmos aboard their Soyuz MS-17 spacecraft and the departure of NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy and cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner from the space station. The launch timeframe also allows for a crew handover with NASA’s SpaceX Crew-2 mission next spring.

The Crew-1 mission is pending completion of data reviews and certification following NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 test flight, which successfully launched NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley to the International Space Station on May 30 and returned them safely home with a splashdown off the Florida coast in the Gulf of Mexico on Aug. 2.  Demo-2 was the first crewed flight test of a commercially-owned and operated human space system.

NASA certification of SpaceX’s crew transportation system allows the agency to regularly fly astronauts to the space station, ending sole reliance on Russia for space station access.

For almost 20 years, humans have continuously lived and worked aboard the International Space Station, advancing scientific knowledge and demonstrating new technologies that enable us to prepare for human exploration to the Moon and Mars.

NASA is enabling economic growth in low-Earth orbit to open access to space to more people, more science, and more companies than ever before.

Watch Today’s News Conference with NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 Astronauts

NASA astronauts Robert Behnken, left, and Douglas Hurley are seen inside the SpaceX Crew Dragon Endeavour spacecraft onboard the SpaceX GO Navigator recovery ship shortly after having landed in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Pensacola, Florida, Sunday, Aug. 2, 2020. Photo credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls
NASA astronauts Robert Behnken, left, and Douglas Hurley are seen inside the SpaceX Crew Dragon Endeavour spacecraft onboard the SpaceX GO Navigator recovery ship shortly after having landed in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Pensacola, Florida, Sunday, Aug. 2, 2020. Photo credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

NASA Television will broadcast a news conference with NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 crew today at 4:30 p.m. EDT from the agency’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley wrapped up their historic mission to the International Space Station with a successful splashdown in the Gulf of Mexico on Sunday, Aug. 2.

Those following the briefing on social media may ask questions using the hashtag #AskNASA.

The SpaceX Crew Dragon Endeavour spacecraft is seen as it lands with NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley onboard in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Pensacola, Florida, Sunday, Aug. 2, 2020. The Demo-2 test flight for NASA's Commercial Crew Program was the first to deliver astronauts to the International Space Station and return them safely to Earth onboard a commercially built and operated spacecraft. Behnken and Hurley returned after spending 64 days in space. Photo credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls
The SpaceX Crew Dragon Endeavour spacecraft lands with NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley onboard in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Pensacola, Florida, Sunday, Aug. 2, 2020. Photo credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

The completion of Demo-2 and the review of the mission and spacecraft pave the way for NASA to certify SpaceX’s crew transportation system for regular flights carrying astronauts to and from the space station. SpaceX is readying the hardware for the first rotational mission, called Crew-1, later this year. This mission would occur after NASA certification, which is expected to take about six weeks.

The goal of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program is safe, reliable and cost-effective transportation to and from the International Space Station. This could allow for additional research time and increase the opportunity for discovery aboard humanity’s testbed for exploration, including helping us prepare for human exploration of the Moon and Mars.

More details about the mission and NASA’s Commercial Crew Program can be found in the press kit online and by following the commercial crew blog@commercial_crew and commercial crew on Facebook.

‘An Incredible Day’: Splashdown Concludes NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2

The SpaceX Crew Dragon Endeavour spacecraft is seen as it lands with NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley onboard in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Pensacola, Florida, Sunday, Aug. 2, 2020. The Demo-2 test flight for NASA's Commercial Crew Program was the first to deliver astronauts to the International Space Station and return them safely to Earth onboard a commercially built and operated spacecraft. Behnken and Hurley returned after spending 64 days in space. Photo credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls
The SpaceX Crew Dragon Endeavour spacecraft is seen as it lands with NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley onboard in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Pensacola, Florida, Sunday, Aug. 2, 2020. The Demo-2 test flight for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program was the first to deliver astronauts to the International Space Station and return them safely to Earth onboard a commercially built and operated spacecraft. Behnken and Hurley returned after spending 64 days in space. Photo credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley splashed down safely in the Gulf of Mexico Sunday afternoon aboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon “Endeavour,” wrapping up a two-month, 27.1-million-mile mission to the International Space Station on the agency’s SpaceX Demo-2 mission. Today’s splashdown at 2:48 p.m. EDT off the coast of Pensacola, Florida, marked the first time a commercially built and operated American crew spacecraft returned from the International Space Station.

Post-splashdown briefing participants, clockwise from top left: NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine; Gwynne Shotwell, president and chief operating officer at SpaceX; Shannon Walker, Victor Glover, Mike Hopkins, and Soichi Noguchi, NASA's SpaceX Crew-1 crew; International Space Station Program Manager Joel Montalbano; and Commercial Crew Program Manager Steve Stich.
Post-splashdown briefing participants, clockwise from top left: NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine; Gwynne Shotwell, president and chief operating officer at SpaceX; Shannon Walker, Victor Glover, Mike Hopkins, and Soichi Noguchi, NASA’s SpaceX Crew-1 crew; International Space Station Program Manager Joel Montalbano; and Commercial Crew Program Manager Steve Stich.

After the successful splashdown, the capsule and crew were successfully recovered by SpaceX. The astronauts are on their way back to Houston, where they will be reunited with their families.

“It really is a great day; I’m almost speechless as to how well things went today with the deorbit, entry, landing, and recovery of Bob and Doug,” said Steve Stich, manager of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, during a post-splashdown briefing. “Coming into today, we had three flight objectives: to execute the deorbit and entry of the Dragon capsule, to demonstrate that we could successfully recover that capsule, and that we could also bring back cargo from space. I think we demonstrated all three of those things today. It was just an incredible day.”

Dragon Endeavour is lifted out of the waters of the Gulf of Mexico and onto the SpaceX “GO Navigator” recovery vessel. Image credit: NASA TV

The Dragon Endeavour capsule was hoisted from the waters of the Gulf of Mexico and onto the deck of the company’s recovery vessel, “GO Navigator.”

“I have to do a call out to the great SpaceX team; they did extraordinary work. This was an incredibly smooth mission,” said Gwynne Shotwell, president and chief operating officer at SpaceX. “This was an extraordinary mission, an extraordinary day for NASA, for SpaceX, and frankly, for Americans and anyone interested in spaceflight.”

Behnken and Hurley arrived at the orbiting laboratory on May 31, following a successful launch on May 30 on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

NASA astronauts Bob Behnken, left, and Doug Hurley, are pictured having just entered the International Space Station on May 31, 2020, shortly after arriving aboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft.
NASA astronauts Bob Behnken, left, and Doug Hurley, are pictured having just entered the International Space Station on May 31, 2020, shortly after arriving aboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft. Photo credit: NASA

“For 60-plus days, Bob and Doug, the SpaceX team, the Commercial Crew Program, and SpaceX vehicle were on board doing critical science for us,” said NASA’s International Space Station Program Manager Joel Montalbano. “Bob and Doug completed over 110 hours of science, utilization, research, and technology development work that will help this great laboratory that we have in low-Earth orbit and allow us to go to the Moon and to Mars with the Artemis program.”

These activities are a part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, which has been working with the U.S. aerospace industry to launch astronauts on American rockets and spacecraft from American soil the International Space Station for the first time since 2011. This is SpaceX’s final test flight and is providing data on the performance of the Falcon 9 rocket, Crew Dragon spacecraft and ground systems, as well as in-orbit, docking, splashdown and recovery operations.

NASA astronauts Bob Behnken, left, and Doug Hurley, are pictured having just entered the International Space Station on May 31, 2020, shortly after arriving aboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft. Photo credit: NASA
NASA astronauts Bob Behnken, left, and Doug Hurley, are pictured having just entered the International Space Station on May 31, 2020, shortly after arriving aboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft. Photo credit: NASA

Dragon Endeavour will be returned to the SpaceX “Dragon Lair” in Florida for inspection and processing. Teams will examine the data and performance of the spacecraft throughout the test flight to complete the certification of the system to fly operational missions for NASA’s Commercial Crew and International Space Station Programs. The certification process is expected to take about six weeks. Following successful certification, the first operational mission, Crew-1, will launch with Crew Dragon commander Michael Hopkins, pilot Victor Glover, and mission specialist Shannon Walker – all of NASA – along with Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) mission specialist Soichi Noguchi. That launch is targeted for late September.

“On behalf of Crew-1 and our families, we want to say congratulations to Bob and Doug their families,” Hopkins said, with Walker, Glover and Noguchi beside him. “We’ve had an opportunity to witness the work and dedication it’s taken to pull off the Demo-2 mission, and it’s been truly impressive and inspiring.”

“As you can imagine, we’ve got big smiles on our faces from what we saw from the Demo-2 mission. I said this after the launch, and I’m going to say it again after watching splashdown: it did not seem like this was the first NASA-SpaceX mission with astronauts on board,” Hopkins added.

The goal of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program is safe, reliable and cost-effective transportation to and from the International Space Station. This could allow for additional research time and increase the opportunity for discovery aboard humanity’s testbed for exploration, including helping us prepare for human exploration of the Moon and Mars.

“We need to remember that this is just the beginning. Now is the time to capitalize on all the great programs that have recently been established, to include going sustainably to the Moon under a program we call Artemis,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “We’re going to the Moon sustainably; we’re going to go with commercial partners, with international partners. We’re going to use the resources of the Moon to learn how to live and work on another world for long periods of time. We’re going to take all of that knowledge and we’re going to go to Mars.”

SpaceX Crew Dragon on the Path Home

The SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft, carrying NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley, undocks from the International Space Station on Aug. 1, 2020. Photo credit: NASA

NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 mission passed a significant milestone this evening as the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft undocked from the International Space Station at 7:35 p.m. EDT after more than two months of docked operations in orbit. Astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley, traveling aboard the spacecraft they named “Endeavour,” will spend one more night in space before beginning their journey back to Earth on Sunday in the first return of a commercially built and operated American spacecraft carrying astronauts from the space station.

NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley are seated inside the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft on Aug. 1, 2020.
NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley are seated inside the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft prior to undocking from the International Space Station on Aug. 1, 2020. Photo credit: NASA

With the spacecraft on its path home, the astronauts will settle in for an eight-hour sleep period. While they’re asleep, a six-minute departure phasing burn at 1:48 a.m. EDT Sunday, Aug. 2 will set the Dragon Endeavour on the proper orbital path to a planned splashdown in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Pensacola, Florida.

The deorbit burn, which slows the spacecraft’s forward speed enough to begin its descent, is scheduled for 1:51 p.m. EDT on Sunday, with splashdown at 2:48 p.m. EDT. Teams continue to closely monitor Hurricane Isaias and evaluate impacts to the landing sites in the Gulf of Mexico along the Florida Panhandle. Teams have several weather decision milestones ahead of and after undocking to adjust the splashdown location and time based on the forecasted conditions for recovery.

Follow along with the return and recovery activities here on the blog and on NASA Television.

NASA astronauts Bob Behnken, left, and Doug Hurley, are pictured having just entered the International Space Station on May 31, 2020, shortly after arriving aboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft.
NASA astronauts Bob Behnken, left, and Doug Hurley, are pictured having just entered the International Space Station on May 31, 2020, shortly after arriving aboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft. Photo credit: NASA

Behnken and Hurley arrived at the orbiting laboratory on May 31, following a successful launch on May 30 on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. During their 63 days aboard the station, Behnken and Hurley contributed more than 100 hours of time to supporting the orbiting laboratory’s investigations, participated in public engagement events, and supported four spacewalks with Behnken and Cassidy to install new batteries in the station’s power grid and upgrade other station hardware.

These activities are a part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, which has been working with the U.S. aerospace industry to launch astronauts on American rockets and spacecraft from American soil the International Space Station for the first time since 2011. This is SpaceX’s final test flight and is providing data on the performance of the Falcon 9 rocket, Crew Dragon spacecraft and ground systems, as well as in-orbit, docking, splashdown and recovery operations.

The test flight also is helping NASA certify SpaceX’s crew transportation system for regular flights carrying astronauts to and from the space station. SpaceX is readying the hardware for the first rotational mission, which would occur following NASA certification.

NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2: Behnken and Hurley Look Forward to Return to Earth

NASA astronauts (from left) Bob Behnken, Doug Hurley and Chris Cassidy are the U.S. members of the Expedition 63 crew aboard the International Space Station. Photo credit: NASA
NASA astronauts (from left) Bob Behnken, Doug Hurley and Chris Cassidy are the U.S. members of the Expedition 63 crew aboard the International Space Station. Photo credit: NASA

NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley are looking forward to their return to Earth following more than two months at the International Space Station during the agency’s SpaceX Demo-2 mission. The crewmates discussed their upcoming SpaceX Crew Dragon departure and splashdown during a news conference alongside fellow NASA astronaut and current Expedition 63 commander Chris Cassidy on Friday, July 31, from the orbiting laboratory.

Behnken and Hurley are wrapping up a successful mission to the station with a sense of satisfaction.

“Just to be able to live and work aboard the space station – a facility that the three of us all helped to build during shuttle flights – and to be a crew member with Chris and Bob on a day-to-day basis, supporting station operations, supporting science, supporting maintenance, the four spacewalks that these guys did, the robotics that we did, was just an incredible experience,” Hurley said.

Weather permitting, undocking remains scheduled for approximately 7:34 p.m. EDT Saturday, Aug. 1, and splashdown at 2:42 p.m. EDT on Sunday. This will mark the first return of a commercially built and operated American spacecraft carrying astronauts from the space station.

“As we get closer, we focus more and more on our preparations to be ready for the splashdown activities,” Behnken said. “We spent today working through the onboard training that will refamiliarize us with the splashdown activities, what our responsibilities will be, the things that we’ll monitor.”

Teams are keeping a watchful eye on Hurricane Isaias and will continue to evaluate impacts to weather around the Florida peninsula, including the potential splashdown sites in the Gulf of Mexico and along the state’s Atlantic coast. NASA and SpaceX will make a decision on a primary splashdown target approximately 6 hours before undocking Saturday.

“We’re watching [forecasts] closely, mostly to maintain awareness and see the trends, and understand what the timeline would be if our recovery out of the water, for example, was delayed a little bit. But we have confidence that the teams on the ground are of course watching that much more closely than we are,” Behnken said. “We don’t control the weather, and we know we can stay up here longer – there’s more chow, and I know the space station program has more work that we can do for the [principal investigators] and other folks who have sent science up to the space station.”

The Crew Dragon spacecraft carrying Hurley and Behnken lifted off from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on May 30 and arrived at the space station the following day. The Demo-2 test flight is helping NASA certify SpaceX’s crew transportation system for regular flights carrying astronauts to and from the orbiting laboratory. SpaceX is readying the hardware for the first rotational mission, which would follow NASA certification.

“It’s a simple math equation: There was one, and then there were three. We effectively tripled our ability to get work done, and with all three of us having been here before, in short order, we were running at full steam and getting as many science objectives completed as we could,” Cassidy said. “These last two months, it’s been fantastic to have buddies at the chow table to reflect on the day, think about tomorrow, and talk about world events and that sort of thing. I’ll definitely miss them when they head back.”

More details about the return can be found in the Top 10 Things to Know for NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 Return and the splashdown weather criteria fact sheet.

NASA Astronauts to Discuss Upcoming Splashdown in Friday News Conference

NASA astronauts (from left) Bob Behnken, Doug Hurley and Chris Cassidy are the U.S. members of the Expedition 63 crew aboard the International Space Station. Photo credit: NASA
NASA astronauts (from left) Bob Behnken, Doug Hurley and Chris Cassidy are the U.S. members of the Expedition 63 crew aboard the International Space Station. Photo credit: NASA

NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley will address their upcoming SpaceX Crew Dragon departure and splashdown in a news conference at 10:45 a.m. EDT Friday, July 31, from the International Space Station.

Fellow NASA astronaut and current Expedition 63 commander Chris Cassidy will join the agency’s SpaceX Demo-2 test flight crew for the 30-minute news conference, which will air live on NASA Television and the agency’s website just two days before Behnken and Hurley are targeted to return to Earth.

Weather permitting, NASA and SpaceX are targeting 2:42 p.m. EDT Sunday, Aug. 2, for the splashdown and conclusion of the Demo-2 test flight mission, which is part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. The SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft, named Endeavour, lifted off May 30 on the company’s Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

For more details, read the full media advisory.

This is SpaceX’s final test flight in NASA’s Commercial Crew Program and will provide data on the performance of the Falcon 9 rocket, Crew Dragon spacecraft, and ground systems, as well as in-orbit, docking, landing, and crew return operations.

NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2: Teams Focus on Return Plans, Weather

NASA astronauts Bob Behnken, left, and Doug Hurley, are pictured having just entered the International Space Station on May 31, 2020, shortly after arriving aboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft.
NASA astronauts Bob Behnken, left, and Doug Hurley, are pictured having just entered the International Space Station on May 31, 2020, shortly after arriving aboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft. Photo credit: NASA

NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley are “Go” to return to Earth with a splashdown off the Florida coast on Sunday, Aug. 2, aboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon “Endeavour” spacecraft. The splashdown will wrap up NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 mission after about two months at the International Space Station.

NASA and SpaceX officials participate in a briefing following the agency's SpaceX Demo-2 Return Flight Readiness Review. Clockwise from top left are NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine; Benji Reed, SpaceX director of crew mission management; Joel Montalbano, manager of NASA's International Space Station Program; and Steve Stich, manager of the agency's Commercial Crew Program.
NASA and SpaceX officials participate in a briefing following the agency’s SpaceX Demo-2 Return Flight Readiness Review. Clockwise from top left are NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine; Benji Reed, SpaceX director of crew mission management; Joel Montalbano, manager of NASA’s International Space Station Program; and Steve Stich, manager of the agency’s Commercial Crew Program.

Teams from NASA and SpaceX met today to evaluate the plans and preparations for the return and recovery of the crew and spacecraft.

“The Return Flight Readiness Review is complete, and the teams — the NASA team, the SpaceX team — remain ‘Go’ for return, and we cannot wait to get Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley back to Earth,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said during a briefing that followed the conclusion of the day’s review.

NASA and SpaceX are targeting 7:34 p.m. EDT Saturday, Aug. 1, for undocking of the Dragon “Endeavour” spacecraft from the space station and 2:42 p.m. EDT on Sunday for splashdown, which will be the first return of a commercially built and operated American spacecraft carrying astronauts from the space station.

“We really took the time to review the vehicle on orbit,” said Steve Stich, manager of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. “It’s been on orbit about 63 days. The systems on Crew Dragon are doing very well; the spacecraft is very healthy. We went through all the systems, any issues or problems that we saw on orbit in terms of how the vehicle responded to the thermal environment in different parts of space; we reviewed the readiness of the [operations] teams; and also the recovery teams. We came out of the FRR with a ‘Go’ to proceed toward undock, deorbit, and landing.”

An area of disturbed weather in the tropics could potentially organize into a tropical storm in the coming days, and NASA and SpaceX managers are closely watching its development. Teams will continue to evaluate the weather and splashdown criteria at seven potential splashdown sites around the Florida peninsula, including sites in the Gulf of Mexico and along the state’s Atlantic coast.

“Over the next few days, we’ll be carefully looking at the weather and getting ready for the undock and deorbit and landing. We’re going to watch the weather very carefully. We have a series of sites and many days. If we don’t undock on Saturday to come home on Sunday, we would move undocking to Monday,” Stich said, adding that the teams constantly monitor the weather and receive briefings prior to key decision points. “We’ll evaluate the weather each day and see how things unfold.”

The Crew Dragon spacecraft carrying Hurley and Behnken lifted off from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on May 30 and arrived at the space station the following day. The Demo-2 test flight is helping NASA certify SpaceX’s crew transportation system for regular flights carrying astronauts to and from the orbiting laboratory. SpaceX is readying the hardware for the first rotational mission, which would occur following NASA certification.

“It’s been great to have Bob and Doug on board,” said Joel Montalbano, manager of NASA’s International Space Station Program. “They complemented the crew that came up on Soyuz in April. We were able to complete four EVAs and a tremendous amount of utilization, research, technology development. We worked cargo operations with the Japanese transfer vehicle. We had medical operations. These guys just contributed significantly to the station team, the International Space Station Program, and to NASA in general.”

The goal of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program is safe, reliable and cost-effective transportation to and from the International Space Station. This could allow for additional research time and increase the opportunity for discovery aboard humanity’s testbed for exploration, including helping us prepare for human exploration of the Moon and Mars.

For the moment, though, the teams are maintaining their focus on the successful conclusion of Demo-2 with a safe return and recovery for Behnken, Hurley, and the Crew Dragon spacecraft.

“I just want to say thank you to NASA, to the nation, to the American public, to all the international partners, and to everybody who’s put all their heart and soul and time into this,” said Benji Reed, SpaceX director of crew mission management. “We’ve got the next big step to go to bring those guys home, and we look forward to making it happen.”

More details about the mission and NASA’s commercial crew program can be found in the press kit online and by following the commercial crew blog@commercial_crew and commercial crew on Facebook.