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.

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.

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.

Plant Experiment Veg-03 H Initiated on Space Station

Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques began growing two new crops aboard the International Space Station on Saturday, March 9, 2019.
Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques initiated plant experiment Veg-03 H aboard the International Space Station on Saturday, March 9, 2019. This required Saint-Jacques to add water to “plant pillows,” which are space pots for plants that contain pre-packed seeds, granular media for the roots to grow into, controlled-release fertilizer, and a way for the on-orbit gardeners to water their plants in microgravity. The experiment should take 30 days to complete and will provide data on food safety for the new crops to compare to ground studies in order to establish a baseline.

Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques began growing two new crops aboard the International Space Station on Saturday, March 9, 2019. The two crops, Wasabi Mustard Greens and Extra Dwarf Pak Choi, are part of experiment Veg-03 H. Saint-Jacques placed six “plant pillows” into the veggie growth chamber. This experiment is part of ongoing research on the space station and on Earth to identify fresh vegetables capable of providing astronauts food and nutrition during long-duration spaceflight, including future missions to the Moon or Mars.

Each pillow serves as a pot designed for space with pre-packed seeds, a substance for the roots to grow into, controlled-release fertilizer, and a way for the in-orbit gardeners to water their plants in microgravity.

High school and middle school students participating in the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden’s Growing beyond Earth Challenge identified Extra Dwarf Pak Choi as a potential candidate crop for space through classroom science experiments, along with Dragoon Lettuce, which NASA astronaut Serena Auñón-Chancellor grew on the station last fall. Using science stations designed to mimic conditions on the space station gave students a chance to grow plants and record data that NASA was able to use. Those experiments culminated in the plant species which launched to the space station aboard the 15th SpaceX cargo resupply mission on June 29, 2018, along with three other plant species.

The experiment should take 30 days to complete and will provide data on food safety for the new crops to compare to ground studies in order to establish a baseline.

“I think the astronauts will be surprised to learn that the Extra Dwarf Pak Choi that they grow and eat has the same amount of Vitamin C by weight as does a fresh Florida orange,” said NASA scientist Matt Romeyn, “and the leaves don’t taste much different than other fresh leafy greens.”

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Are you in New Orleans for the Fourth of July weekend? NASA has a large exhibit at Essence Fest this year. Stop by the Audubon Institute’s Aquarium July 1-5!

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Celebrate the Fourth of July with Commercial Crew

4thCelebrate Fourth of July with Commercial Crew by coloring our newest coloring sheet. You candownload the sheet, at go.nasa.gov/1Hy6H2U. To follow the latest progress on NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, check out the Commercial Crew blog, at blogs.nasa.gov/commercialcrew