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 and Boeing Complete Orbital Flight Test Reviews

An artist's illustration of Boeing's CST-100 Starliner spacecraft in orbit.
An artist’s illustration of Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft in orbit. Photo credit: Boeing

NASA and Boeing have completed reviews of the company’s uncrewed Orbital Flight Test (OFT) that flew in December 2019 and are working toward a plan to refly the mission to the International Space Station as part of the agency’s Commercial Crew Program.

The joint NASA-Boeing Independent Review team completed their final assessments of issues that were detected during the first test flight of Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft. Following this conclusion, the team identified a total of 80 recommendations that Boeing, in collaboration with NASA, is addressing. A launch date has not been set yet for the second flight test, dubbed OFT-2.

To read the full article, click here.

NASA and SpaceX Leaders Continue to Monitor Weather for Tomorrow’s SpaceX Demo-2 Launch

Agency leaders hold a press briefing on May 29, 2020, at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida ahead of NASA's SpaceX Demo-2 launch, now scheduled for Saturday, May 30.
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine speaks to members of the media during a press briefing May 29, 2020, near the Press Site countdown clock at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida ahead of NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 launch. Behind him are Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana (far left), NASA astronauts Kjell Lindgren and Nicole Mann, and NASA Deputy Administrator Jim Morhard (far right). The launch, initially scheduled for May 27, was scrubbed due to unfavorable weather conditions. The next launch attempt is Saturday, May 30. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

Weather is one thing everyone has been keeping a close eye on ahead of NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 launch to the International Space Station as part of the agency’s Commercial Crew Program. The first launch attempt on May 27 was rescheduled due to unfavorable weather conditions around Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. With the launch now targeted for 3:22 p.m. EDT tomorrow, May 30, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine remains hopeful for tomorrow’s launch, but stressed the importance protecting the test flight crew members, NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley.

“Our highest priority is and always has been Bob and Doug. And of course, a couple of days ago, we had too much electricity in the atmosphere,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine during a press briefing at Kennedy on May 29. “This is certain though: We are going to launch American astronauts on American rockets from American soil, and we will do it with the absolute priority being the safety of our astronauts.

“The president and vice president were proud of the NASA team and the SpaceX team for making the right call for the right reasons. When we do this again Saturday, if we do this again Sunday, we will feel no pressure. We will go when we are ready.”

NASA astronaut Kjell Lindgren speaks to members of the media during a press briefing May 29, 2020, near the Press Site countdown clock at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida ahead of NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 launch. Behind him is NASA astronaut Nicole Mann. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

The U.S. Air Force 45th Weather Squadron is predicting a 50% chance of favorable weather conditions for tomorrow’s launch, with the primary concerns for launch revolving around flight through precipitation, anvil and cumulus clouds.

NASA astronaut Kjell Lindgren, who flew on a Soyuz rocket in 2015, also participated in the press briefing, touching on his own experience with delayed launches.

“You certainly get excited about the launch; you’re prepared, your mindset is such that you’re ready to fly, and certainly Bob and Doug were ready to do that on Wednesday,” he said. “The scrub, the delay, just represents an opportunity for the team to learn and is an opportunity for them to reunite with their families. I know they’re spending time with their families and enjoying this little bit of time before they get ready to fly again.”

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon spacecraft will lift off from Kennedy’s Launch Complex 39A, carrying Behnken and Hurley to the space station to join astronaut Chris Cassidy and cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner – the Expedition 63 crew members already onboard – making this the first launch of NASA astronauts from American soil in nearly a decade.

NASA’s Commercial Crew Program is working with partners SpaceX and Boeing to develop a U.S. commercial crew space transportation capability with the goal of achieving safe, reliable and cost-effective access to and from the space station and other destinations in low-Earth orbit.

Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana speaks to members of the media during a press briefing May 29, 2020, near the Press Site countdown clock at Kennedy ahead of NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 launch. Behind him is NASA astronaut Kjell Lindgren. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

“I can’t tell you what it’s going to mean to me to see a U.S. rocket launching crews again off that pad out there,” said Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana. “We went to the Moon from that pad; I launched three times off that pad. To see Bob and Doug launch off it, and then to get Boeing launching, we are on the verge of a new era in human spaceflight. This is just the beginning; it’s only going to get better.”

NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 will be the company’s final flight test, providing critical data on the performance of the Falcon 9 and Crew Dragon capsule, as well as the ground systems at the launch pad that will be supporting the launch. NASA and SpaceX teams will review data from all stages of launch, from liftoff to in-orbit, docking and landing operations – all paving the way for the agency to certify the crew transportation system for regular, crewed flights to the orbiting laboratory.

“What Elon Musk has done for the American space program is, he has brought vision and inspiration that we hadn’t had since the retirement of the space shuttles,” said Bridenstine. “When I talk to him, when I meet with him, he gives me a commitment and he delivers on that commitment. That has happened every single time.”

“We started out as a partnership, and in many respects, it’s become a friendship,” added NASA Deputy Administrator Jim Morhard.

Starting at 11 a.m. on Saturday, May 30, NASA and SpaceX will provide coverage of launch activities, airing on NASA TV and the agency’s website. This will include live shots of Behnken and Hurley as they put on their spacesuits, their arrival at historic Launch Complex 39A and liftoff of the Falcon 9 rocket. Coverage will continue through Crew Dragon’s docking to the space station, scheduled for 10:29 a.m. EDT on Sunday, May 31.

Excitement Builds for NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2, Return of Crewed Flight from U.S. Soil

The Commercial Crew and International Space Station overview news conference included NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, top left; Kathy Lueders, program manager, NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, top right; Kirk Shireman, program manager, International Space Station Program, lower left; and Gwynne Shotwell, president and chief operating officer, SpaceX, lower right. Image credit: NASA TV

NASA and SpaceX managers joined NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley for a series of virtual briefings on May 1, offering a preview of the upcoming mission to the International Space Station as a part of the agency’s Commercial Crew Program (CCP). NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 mission will be the first crewed flight to launch from U.S. soil since the conclusion of the Space Shuttle Program in 2011.

NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley participate in a SpaceX test of crew flight hardware
NASA astronauts Robert Behnken, left, and Douglas Hurley participated in an integrated SpaceX test of critical crew flight hardware in March. Photo credit: SpaceX

Behnken and Hurley will fly to the station aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft launched by a Falcon 9 rocket from Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A. Liftoff is slated for May 27 at 4:32 p.m. EDT.

Building on last year’s uncrewed Demo-1 flight to the station, Demo-2 will be an end-to-end test of SpaceX’s crew transportation system, paving the way for NASA to certify the system for regular crewed flights to the orbiting laboratory. This capability, in turn, will maximize the station’s use as a scientific platform unparalleled on Earth.

“This is a high priority mission for the United States of America. We as a nation have not had our own access to the International Space Station for nine years,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said. “At the same time, we’ve had American astronauts on the International Space Station for 20 years in a row, and they’ve been doing these absolutely stunning experiments and discoveries and advancing the human condition from the microgravity of space.”

NASA’s Commercial Crew Program team has worked in partnership with SpaceX for many years to reach this point, according to Kathy Lueders, CCP manager, and Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX president and chief operating officer.

“I want to make it clear that this is one of many exciting and hard days that we have in front of us,” Lueders said. “Gwynne’s team and my team are diligently working on getting the vehicles ready; making sure that all the i’s are dotted and t’s are crossed in our analysis, test data, assessments; going through all the reviews. We’re making sure that we are ready for this important mission to safely fly Bob and Doug up to the International Space Station and return them to their families.”

“We’ve worked closely with NASA since 2006,” Shotwell said. “All that work is culminating in this historic event coming up in just a few weeks.”

SpaceX’s 27th and final Mark 3 parachute test was completed May 1. Photo credit: SpaceX

One critical milestone was completed today: the 27th and final test of Crew Dragon’s enhanced Mark 3 parachute design. The parachutes will play a key role in the safe landing of the crew when the spacecraft returns to Earth.

Behnken and Hurley both are veterans of two space shuttle flights, having been selected as astronauts in the same class – the 2000 astronaut class. Behnken served as a mission specialist on STS-123 and STS-130, while Hurley was the pilot on STS-127 and STS-135 – the final flight of the program. Today, they’re preparing for their first flight together on a momentous mission.

“It’s probably a dream of every test pilot school student to have the opportunity to fly on a brand-new spaceship, and I’m lucky enough to get that opportunity with my good friend, here, Doug Hurley,” Behnken said of his friend and crewmate, seated beside him.

“It’s a great honor to be part of this mission,” Hurley added. “It’s amazing after all this time to be less than a month away from launch down in Florida.”

Behnken and Hurley truly are embarking on a test flight. While Crew Dragon is docked to the space station, mission controllers at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston will work with the crew to carry out a series of test objectives.

“This is really to shake down and demonstrate that all the preparations and the emergency capabilities we’ve built into this vehicle have made it reliable — as a lifeboat in a contingency aboard [station] and it’s always there as a backup to get crew members down to the ground if needed – but also reliable to carry crew members up and down on a regular and repeatable basis,” said Zeb Scoville, NASA Demo-2 flight director.

One unexpected challenge the teams have had to manage is how to deal with the arrival of the novel coronavirus. Even in the midst of the global pandemic, mission preparations have continued – with precautions. Those precautions – such as social distancing – extend to launch viewers, too.

“We won’t have the luxury of having our family and friends being there at Kennedy to watch the launch. But, obviously, it’s the right thing to do in the current environment,” Hurley said. “We want everybody to be safe. We want everybody to enjoy this and relish this moment in U.S. space history, but be safe and enjoy it from a distance.”

Current plans call for the astronauts to arrive at Kennedy a few days prior to liftoff for one final launch dress rehearsal.

“This is a very exciting time,” Bridenstine said. “The International Space Station is a critical capability for the United States of America; having access to it is also critical. We are moving forward very rapidly with this program that is so important to our nation and, in fact, to the entire world.”

NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 Mission to be Previewed in Televised May 1 Briefings

NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley participate in a SpaceX test of crew flight hardware
On Monday, March 30, 2020 at a SpaceX processing facility on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, SpaceX successfully completed a fully integrated test of critical crew flight hardware ahead of Crew Dragon’s second demonstration mission to the International Space Station for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. NASA astronauts Robert Behnken, left, and Douglas Hurley participated in the test. Photo credit: SpaceX

NASA will host a series of televised briefings on Friday, May 1, to preview the upcoming Demo-2 mission to the International Space Station. Demo-2 will mark the first launch of American astronauts aboard an American spacecraft from American soil since the conclusion of the space shuttle era in 2011.

NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley will fly to the station aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft launched by a Falcon 9 rocket from Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A. Liftoff is slated for May 27.

Originating from the agency’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, all three briefings will be broadcast live on NASA Television and online at www.nasa.gov/live. Times are provided in Eastern.

  • 11 a.m.: The Commercial Crew and International Space Station overview news conference will include NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine; Kathy Lueders, program manager, NASA’s Commercial Crew Program; Kirk Shireman, program manager, International Space Station Program; and Gwynne Shotwell, president and chief operating officer, SpaceX.
  • 12:30 p.m.: The mission overview news conference will include Steve Stich, NASA’s Commercial Crew Program deputy manager; Zeb Scoville, NASA Demo-2 flight director, Flight Operations Directorate at Johnson; and Benji Reed, SpaceX director of crew mission management.
  • 2 p.m.: The crew news conference will include both crew members for NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 mission: astronaut Robert Behnken, joint operations commander, and astronaut Douglas Hurley, spacecraft commander.

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 at the mission’s end. 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.

Launch Date Set for First Crew Flight from U.S. Soil Since 2011

The SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft undergoes final processing at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, in preparation for the Demo-2 launch with NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley to the International Space Station for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.
The SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft undergoes final processing at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, in preparation for the Demo-2 launch with NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley to the International Space Station for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. Crew Dragon will carry Behnken and Hurley atop a Falcon 9 rocket, returning crew launches to the space station from U.S. soil for the first time since the Space Shuttle Program ended in 2011. Photo credit: SpaceX

A new era of human spaceflight is set to begin as American astronauts once again launch on an American rocket from American soil to the International Space Station as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley will fly on SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft, lifting off on a Falcon 9 rocket at 4:32 p.m. EDT on May 27, from Launch Complex 39A in Florida, for an extended stay at the space station for the Demo-2 mission. The specific duration of the mission is to be determined.

As the final flight test for SpaceX, this mission will validate the company’s crew transportation system, including the launch pad, rocket, spacecraft, and operational capabilities. This also will be the first time NASA astronauts will test the spacecraft systems in orbit.

The Demo-2 mission will be the final major step before NASA’s Commercial Crew Program certifies Crew Dragon for operational, long-duration missions to the space station. This certification and regular operation of Crew Dragon will enable NASA to continue the important research and technology investigations taking place onboard the station, which benefits people on Earth and lays the groundwork for future exploration of the Moon and Mars with the agency’s Artemis program.

To learn more about the Demo-2 mission and crew, read the full story at https://www.nasa.gov/specials/dm2.

SpaceX CRS-20 Prelaunch News Conference

SpaceX CRS-20 mission patch.A prelaunch news conference for SpaceX’s 20th Commercial Resupply Services mission for NASA to the International Space Station is set for 4 p.m. EST today.

Participants include:

  • Joel Montalbano, manager for International Space Station Program
  • Jennifer Buchli, deputy chief scientist for International Space Station Program
  • Hans Koenigsmann, vice president, Build and Flight Reliability at SpaceX
  • Mike McAleenan, launch weather officer, 45th Space Wing, U.S. Air Force

Watch the news conference on NASA Television.

NASA commercial cargo provider SpaceX is targeting 11:50 p.m. EST tonight, March 6, for the launch of resupply mission to the space station.

Follow the launch countdown tonight beginning at 11:30 p.m. on NASA TV and the launch blog. To learn more about the SpaceX CRS-20 mission, visit the mission homepage at http://www.nasa.gov/spacex.

SpaceX CRS-20 Launch Targeted for March 6

SpaceX is targeting 11:50 p.m. EST Friday, March 6, 2020 for the launch of its 20th resupply mission to the International Space Station.
The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the Dragon cargo module lifts off Space Launch Complex 40 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida in the early morning May 4, 2019. Liftoff was at 2:48 a.m. EDT. SpaceX is targeting 11:50 p.m. EST Friday, March 6, 2020 for the launch of its 20th resupply mission to the International Space Station. Photo credit: NASA

SpaceX is now targeting March 6 at 11:50 p.m. EST for launch of its 20th commercial resupply services mission (CRS-20) to the International Space Station. During standard preflight inspections, SpaceX identified a valve motor on the second stage engine behaving not as expected and determined the safest and most expedient path to launch is to utilize the next second stage in line that was already at the Cape and ready for flight. The new second stage has already completed the same preflight inspections with all hardware behaving as expected. The updated target launch date provides the time required to complete preflight integration and final checkouts.

The cargo Dragon will lift off atop a Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida carrying more than 5,600 pounds of science investigations and cargo to the station, including research on particle foam manufacturing, water droplet formation, the human intestine and other cutting-edge investigations.

Learn more about space station activities by following @space_station and @ISS_Research on Twitter as well as the ISS Facebook and ISS Instagram accounts.

Starliner Ready for its Inaugural Flight

Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket rolled out of the Vertical Integration Facility to the launch pad at Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on Dec. 20, 2019.
Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket rolled out of the Vertical Integration Facility to the launch pad at Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on Dec. 18, 2019. Photo credit: ULA

Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket rolled out of the Vertical Integration Facility at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 41 earlier today. Starliner now stands poised at the launch pad awaiting its maiden flight on Boeing’s uncrewed Orbital Flight Test to the International Space Station as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. Liftoff is scheduled for 6:36 a.m. EST Friday, Dec. 20. The flight test will provide valuable data on the end-to-end performance of the Atlas V rocket, Starliner spacecraft, and ground systems, as well as in-orbit, docking, and landing operations. The data will be used as part of NASA’s process of certifying Boeing’s crew transportation system for carrying astronauts to and from the space station.

Meteorologists with the U.S. Air Force 45th Weather Squadron continue to predict an 80% chance of favorable weather for launch on Friday morning. Primary concerns for launch day are the Cumulus Cloud Rule and User Ground Winds violations during the instantaneous launch window.

Launch Readiness Review Complete, Boeing Orbital Flight Test ‘Go’ for Launch

The ULA Atlas V rocket, topped by the Boeing CST-100 Starliner spacecraft, stand on the launch pad at Space Launch Complex 41 at CCAFS on Dec. 6, during a wet dress rehearsal for Boeing's Orbital Flight Test.
The United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket, topped by the Boeing CST-100 Starliner spacecraft, stands on the launch pad at Space Launch Complex 41 at Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Friday, Dec. 6, during a wet dress rehearsal for Boeing’s Orbital Flight Test. Image credit: NASA

Teams from NASA, Boeing and United Launch Alliance are “go” for a launch following today’s launch readiness review ahead of the Orbital Flight Test mission to the International Space Station for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

Launch is scheduled for 6:36 a.m. EST Friday, Dec. 20, from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

Meteorologists with the U.S. Air Force 45th Space Wing continue to predict an 80% chance of favorable weather with the primary concerns for launch day are the Cumulus Cloud Rule and User Ground Winds violations during the instantaneous launch window.

At 2 p.m., NASA will host a prelaunch news briefing at Kennedy Space Center. Participants are:

  • Kathy Lueders, manager, NASA Commercial Crew Program
  • Joel Montalbano, deputy manager, International Space Station Program
  • John Mulholland, vice president and program manager, Boeing Commercial Crew Program
  • John Elbon, chief operating officer, United Launch Alliance
  • Pat Forrester, astronaut office chief, Johnson Space Center
  • Will Ulrich, launch weather officer, 45th Weather Squadron