Demo-1 Concludes With Crew Dragon Splashdown

The SpaceX Crew Dragon splashes down in the Atlantic Ocean about 200 miles off Florida’s east coast at 8:45 a.m. EST, Friday, March 8, 2019.
The SpaceX Crew Dragon splashes down in the Atlantic Ocean about 200 miles off Florida’s east coast at 8:45 a.m. EST, Friday, March 8, 2019. Image credit: NASA TV

The SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft splashed down at 8:45 a.m. EST about 200 miles off Florida’s east coast, returning from the uncrewed Demo-1 flight test to the International Space Station and the company’s inaugural flight with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

The mission, known as Demo-1, is a critical step for NASA and SpaceX to demonstrate the ability to safely fly missions with NASA astronauts to the orbital laboratory.

The Crew Dragon launched March 2 from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. It was the first commercially-built and operated American crew spacecraft and rocket to launch from American soil on a mission to the space station and autonomously dock to the station. To complete the docking, both the station and Crew Dragon’s adapters used the new international docking standard.

Crew Dragon is returning to Earth some critical research samples from science investigations conducted to enable human exploration farther into space and develop and demonstrate in the U.S. ISS National Laboratory new technologies, treatments, and products for improving life on Earth.

Also traveling aboard the spacecraft is an anthropomorphic test device named Ripley outfitted with sensors to provide data about potential effects on humans traveling in Crew Dragon.

SpaceX’s recovery ship, Go Searcher, is equipped with a crane to lift Crew Dragon out of the water and onto the main deck of the ship within an hour after splashdown.

NASA and SpaceX still have work to do to review the systems and flight data to validate the spacecraft’s performance and prepare it to fly astronauts. Already planned upgrades, additional qualification testing, and an in-flight abort test will occur before NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley will climb aboard for Demo-2, the crewed flight test to the International Space Station that is necessary to certify Crew Dragon for routine operational missions.

Demo-1 Underway: Crew Dragon Launches on Debut Flight

Image credit: NASA TV

The Demo-1 uncrewed flight test to the International Space Station, SpaceX’s inaugural flight with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, is underway following the successful launch Saturday morning of the company’s Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon spacecraft. The first-of-its-kind mission, planned to be a full demonstration of the spacecraft and its systems, launched on time at 2:49 a.m. EST from Launch Complex 39A at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in

In addition to 400 pounds of supplies and equipment, Crew Dragon is carrying Ripley, an anthropomorphic test device outfitted with sensors to gather important data about what an astronaut flying aboard the spacecraft would experience throughout the mission.

Crew Dragon will carry out a series of phasing maneuvers as it pursues the space station during approach. The spacecraft is scheduled to autonomously dock with the orbiting laboratory tomorrow morning, March 3, at about 6 a.m. EST, and remain docked until approximately 2:30 a.m. on Friday, March 8. Crew Dragon is expected to return to Earth with a splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean at approximately 8:45 a.m., a little more than six hours after departing the space station.

Demo-1 Launch Information

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the company's Crew Dragon spacecraft onboard is seen illuminated on the launch pad by spotlights at Launch Complex 39A as preparations continue for the Demo-1 mission, Friday, March 1, 2019, at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft onboard is seen illuminated on the launch pad by spotlights at Launch Complex 39A as preparations continue for the Demo-1 mission, Friday, March 1, 2019, at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Photo credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky

NASA and SpaceX are preparing for the launch of the Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon spacecraft on the Demo-1 uncrewed flight test to the International Space Station. Liftoff from Launch Complex 39A is targeted for 2:49 a.m. EST on Saturday, March 2. This is the first launch of a space system designed for humans built and operated by a commercial company through a public-private partnership on a flight test to the International Space Station.

Follow the countdown on NASA TV and the Launch Blog on Saturday starting at 2 a.m.

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.

Weather Forecast Remains 80 Percent ‘Go’ for Demo-1; Prelaunch Briefing Set for Thursday

SpaceX’s Crew Dragon at Launch Complex 39A
SpaceX’s Crew Dragon at Launch Complex 39A

Three days remain until the planned liftoff of a SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft on the company’s Falcon 9 rocket—the first launch of a commercially built and operated American spacecraft and space system designed for humans. Liftoff is targeted for 2:49 a.m. EST on Saturday, March 2, from Launch Complex 39A at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The Demo-1 mission to the International Space Station serves as an end-to-end test of the system’s capabilities.

The launch weather forecast continues to look promising; meteorologists with the U.S. Air Force 45th Space Wing predict an 80 percent chance of favorable weather at launch time. Thick clouds or cumulus clouds that would violate launch requirements are the primary weather concerns.

NASA will host a prelaunch briefing at Kennedy at 4 p.m. EST on Thursday, Feb. 28. The briefing will be broadcast live on NASA TV. See the full briefings and events schedule, including briefing participants, at https://go.nasa.gov/2GBCB5A.

The Commercial Crew Press Kit is now online! View it here: https://go.nasa.gov/2GNyYdd

SpaceX Demo-1 Launch Update

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon spacecraft rolled out to Launch Complex 39A and went vertical for a dry run to prep for the upcoming Demo-1 flight test.
The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon spacecraft rolled out to Launch Complex 39A and went vertical for a dry run to prep for the upcoming Demo-1 flight test. Photo credit: SpaceX

NASA and SpaceX are continuing to work on the activities leading toward the Demo-1, uncrewed flight test to the International Space Station. NASA and SpaceX are now targeting no earlier than February for the launch of Demo-1 to complete hardware testing and joint reviews. NASA and SpaceX will confirm a new target date after coordination with the Eastern Range and the International Space Station Program.

SpaceX CRS-16 Now Targeted for Dec. 5

NASA and SpaceX are now targeting Wednesday, Dec. 5 for launch of the 16th SpaceX cargo resupply mission to the International Space Station. The launch was moved to Wednesday after mold was found on food bars for a rodent investigation prior to handover to SpaceX. Teams will use the extra day to replace the food bars. The launch time for Wednesday is 1:16 p.m. EST.

Weather Improves to 60 Percent Chance Favorable for SpaceX CRS-16 Launch

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket soars upward after lifting off from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida at 4:30 p.m. EDT on April 2, 2018,.
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket soars upward after lifting off from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida at 4:30 p.m. EDT on April 2, 2018, carrying the SpaceX Dragon resupply spacecraft. On its 14th commercial resupply services mission for NASA, Dragon will deliver supplies, equipment and new science experiments for technology research to the space station. Photo credit: NASA/Tony Gray, Tim Powers, Tim Terry

Meteorologists with the U.S. Air Force 45th Space Wing predict a 60 percent chance of favorable weather for liftoff of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket for the company’s 16th commercial resupply services mission to the International Space Station. Launch is scheduled for Tuesday, Dec 4 at 1:38 p.m. EST from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. On launch day, the primary weather concerns are violation of the thick cloud layer and cumulus cloud rules and flight through precipitation.

New Crops Planted Aboard the International Space Station

NASA astronaut Serena Auñón-Chancellor photographed ‘Dragoon’ lettuce growing in a ‘plant pillow’ on Oct. 30. If all goes well, the lettuce will be ready to enjoy in time for Thanksgiving.

NASA astronaut Serena Auñón-Chancellor planted two new crops in a special garden aboard the International Space Station on Thursday, Oct. 25. If all goes well, the ‘Red Russian’ kale and ‘Dragoon’ lettuce, will be ready to enjoy in time for Thanksgiving.

The lettuce seeds arrived at the station in “plant pillows,” which are needed because of the way water moves in microgravity. Auñón-Chancellor placed the plant pillows atop a root mat, which she primed with water. She installed them in the station’s Veggie plant growth system, and completed her sowing by adding water to the growth chamber’s reservoir.

These plants are part of experiment Veg-03 G – NASA has been successfully growing veggies aboard station since 2014. The latest experiment will provide astronauts with vitamins C, K and potassium, not to mention a welcome addition to their turkey day table 250 miles above Earth.

Students Assist in Space Farming Challenges

Gioia Massa examines one of the plant samples for X-Hab 2018, on March 12, 2018
Gioia Massa examines one of the plant samples for X-Hab 2018, on March 12, 2018 when students from Ohio State University Agricultural Technical Institute came to Kennedy Space Center to meet with subject matter experts from NASA. The students’ design project focused on increasing the sustainability of crop production by using 3D printing. Photo credit: NASA

Astronauts have lived and worked on the International Space Station continuously for more than 17 years, expanding on the earlier short-duration missions of the Apollo and Space Shuttle Programs, but going beyond those achievements will require new technology. One way NASA is working to solve the challenges of extending human presence beyond Earth’s orbit is with the eXploration Systems and Habitation (X-Hab) Academic Innovation Challenge, which provides college students the opportunity to participate in the development of new technologies that increase the viability of long duration deep space missions.

For the past eight years, teams of students have submitted proposals for specific research questions posed by the X-Hab Academic Innovation Challenge. Once selected, NASA awarded the schools grants ranging from less than $17,000 to more than $150,000 for supplies and necessities, which the university matched. Sponsoring programs included Space Life and Physical Sciences Research and Applications, Human Research Program, Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate and Advanced Exploration Systems. Then the students spent months working as a team with support from NASA subject matter experts as the team developed solutions to their topic. Four of the eight projects for the 2018 X-Hab involved students working with NASA researchers at Kennedy Space Center’s Exploration Research and Technology Programs’ Utilization and Life Sciences Office, developing new ideas for growing plants in space.

“What we’re really focusing our attention on right now is how do we get nutrition in play, and how do we get automation, and use smart systems,” said Charles Quincy, a NASA researcher at Kennedy.

It is vital to have autonomous systems capable of making decisions about growing plants because astronauts are unlikely to have much time to spend farming during deep space missions. Long distances also will delay communications, making it harder for ground crews to use remote commands to grow food for the crew. Microgravity, growing plants in a closed loop during the voyage, and an environment very different from Earth are all complications to growing food in space that challenged X-Hab 2018 participants.

Students from the University of Michigan worked on designing and prototyping a substrate, a material in which a plant grows, that uses 3D printing to achieve effective plant growth in microgravity. Students from the Ohio State University Agricultural Technical Institute attempted to improve the sustainability of food crop production by producing substrate using 3D printing technology and reusing the same substrate for multiple crops. Temple University students developed a fresh produce sanitation system to manage microbial growth in space. Finally, Utah State University students designed a 3D printed matrix system for integration into the Veggie growth platform on the space station to better understand providing water and nutrients to plants.

Quincy said the ideas and the entire experience of participating in X-Hab is a positive one for both the students and NASA. The teams develop design projects that have the potential of shaping future NASA missions. In turn, those teams must meet engineering milestones, conduct outreach, and attempt to leverage funding from other organizations, providing them with hands-on experience in cutting-edge research.

Kimberly Simpson, a NASA engineer at Kennedy, said that as the students reached out to experts at NASA, invariably there comes a point when the questions move beyond current knowledge, and the students had to go through the process of trying to find an answer.

One of the best things about X-Hab, from Simpson’s perspective, is that the challenge opens students to the possibility of doing research they had never considered before. In addition to bringing new ideas and technology to enable humans to travel deep into space to NASA, the challenge also develops a pipeline of young scientists and engineers.

On May 31, 2018, NASA and the National Space Grant Foundation announced the selection of 10 teams for X-Hab 2019. These teams will develop their projects during the 2018-2019 academic year.

Written by Leejay Lockhart

Space to Ground: Florida Students Learn About Growing Plants in Orbit

Trent Smith, Veggie project manager, speaks to high school students Wednesday about growing plants on the International Space Station at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. During the event, students in central Florida spoke to NASA researchers, while students in Miami who had participated in The Fairchild Challenge spoke in real time to astronauts on the space station about the challenges of living and growing food in space.
Trent Smith, Veggie project manager, speaks to high school students Wednesday about growing plants on the International Space Station at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. During the event, students in central Florida spoke to NASA researchers, while students in Miami who had participated in The Fairchild Challenge spoke in real time to astronauts on the space station about the challenges of living and growing food in space. Photo credit: NASA

Students in Florida asked questions of NASA scientists on the ground and astronauts on the International Space Station to learn more about how the agency is pioneering the cultivation of plants in space to supplement astronaut diets with fresh, nutritious food. These students have directly bolstered researchers’ knowledge in the field of space plant science by participating in the Growing Beyond Earth part of The Fairchild Challenge, which has promoted education focused on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) by engaging students to test more than 100 varieties of edible plants during the past three years for their potential viability on the space station.

Astronauts on the orbiting laboratory use the Vegetable Production System, known as Veggie, to study plants. These experiments also have a practical side. Not only do the plants augment the astronauts’ diet with fresh food, according to astronauts, tending the crops is a source of enjoyment and a little piece of home for the crew.

Nicole Figueroa, a Pine Ridge High School student, speaks with Gioia Massa, a life sciences project scientist at KSC, after an event that highlighted NASA’s partnership with The Fairchild Challenge to efforts to identify plants suitable for growing in space.
Nicole Figueroa, a Pine Ridge High School student, speaks with Gioia Massa, a life sciences project scientist at KSC, after an event that highlighted NASA’s partnership with The Fairchild Challenge to efforts to identify plants suitable for growing in space. Photo credit: NASA

Hundreds of high school students from eight schools in central Florida came to the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex where NASA treated them to a presentation by Gioia Massa, a life sciences project scientist at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center, and Trent Smith, Veggie project manager, along with university students who are interns at NASA also working on growing plants for space. The high school students then had the opportunity to ask the team questions, which covered topics as diverse as using Martian soil for growing plants, to the viability of growing trees in space.

As he answered questions, Smith said working with 150 schools nationwide through The Fairchild Challenge was a tremendous benefit to NASA. Students have identified several strong candidate crops including extra dwarf pak choi and dragoon lettuce, which are undergoing final testing to determine if they are suitable for space.

“I hope to send them up in a resupply spacecraft very soon, giving astronauts new selections to grow and eat in space,” Smith said.

Massa told the crowd that The Fairchild Challenge participants had not only evaluated other promising plant varieties including Shungiku, an edible Chrysanthemum, but they had also tested horticultural techniques like cut-and-come-again which is a repetitive harvest that can increase overall food yield. She said the entire program was “a wonderful collaboration” between NASA and students.

Attention then shifted to South Florida as hundreds of Miami students who had participated in the Growing Beyond Earth portion of the Fairchild Challenge visited the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden for a live downlink with crew members aboard the space station.

As part of their Year of Education on Station activities, astronauts Ricky Arnold and Drew Feustel fielded questions from the students and talked about some of the challenges of living in microgravity and trying to grow space plants.

Students including Ashton Santos from Colonial High School in Orlando expressed excitement for being able to come to the visitor complex and learning directly from the people behind the science. “This experience was really valuable to me, and it really piqued my interest about agriculture in space,” Santos said. “I hope that I can find out more, and maybe I can be one of the interns there,” he added.

Camile Mason, another Colonial High School student, had the opportunity to ask the Veggie team a question and said the visit was an exciting experience. “It was very insightful,” Mason said. “It was very interesting learning about how scientists developed and changed the way we can look at agriculture even here on Earth, and how we can study and mimic conditions out in space, here.”

Written by Leejay Lockhart

Video of activities at KSC

Video of NASA downlink activities