Featured Image Source: SpaceX / NASA
SpaceX performed its first crewed mission to the International Space Station (ISS) on May 30th. The Demo-2 mission launched NASA Astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley aboard the Crew Dragon spacecraft, atop a Falcon 9 rocket, from Florida’s Kennedy Space Center. The astronaut duo arrived at the station on May 31st. They have been performing vital tasks since, while Dragon remains docked to the ISS Harmony module. Dragon is actively monitored from SpaceX’s mission control station and also by the astronauts.
Upon Demo-2 mission completion, Dragon will earn a human-grade spacecraft certification. Deputy ISS Program Manager Kenneth Todd said they anticipate to return Behnken and Hurley home aboard Dragon early next month, on August 2nd. Before their return, the astronauts will conduct a Crew Dragon habitability test. NASA’s Associate Administrator for Human Spaceflight Exploration and Operations Kathy Lueders said –
“One of the things we want to make sure of is how comfortable is the vehicle with all 4 crew members in. How able are you to do all the tasks you need to do with all 4 crew members in it, and we're getting ready to do that demonstration.”
During the habitability test, four of the five astronauts currently working at the orbiting laboratory will sleep and live inside Dragon for 24-hours. The crew will also run through emergency procedures to assess how well the spacecraft is suited and what possible improvements could be made for future crews.
SpaceX's next mission, Crew-1, will deploy four astronauts aboard Crew Dragon in mid-to-late September. Crew-1 will be the first operational mission conducted by three NASA astronauts and one JAXA Japanese astronaut. The astronauts who will conduct the Crew-1 mission are: NASA Astronaut Victor Glover will be the spacecraft's commander; NASA Astronaut Micheal Hopkins, joint spacecraft commander; and NASA Astronaut Shannon Walker will be a mission specialist. Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Soichi Noguchi, is currently undergoing training to ride Dragon alongside NASA astronauts. He will also be a mission specialist.
Once Demo-2 is complete, and the SpaceX and NASA teams have reviewed all the data for certification, SpaceX will launch Crew Dragon’s first six-month operational mission (Crew-1) later this year. The Crew-1 spacecraft is in production and astronaut training is well underway pic.twitter.com/SVMQMkK6AB— SpaceX (@SpaceX) May 1, 2020
The Crew-1 operational mission is expected to be a longer-duration stay at the space station. Crew-1 astronauts will be part of Expedition 62/63 and stay at the orbiting lab for around 6 months conducting scientific experiments. Noguchi shared that Crew-1 is undergoing training at NASA facilities in Texas and SpaceX in California, he said:
“Most of the space training will be conducted in Los Angeles, California, [at] SpaceX headquarters. Some of the training will take place in Houston, Texas so I will be moving between those two states."
The Crew Dragon spacecraft that will ferry them to the orbiting laboratory is also undergoing preparation. “Once Demo-2 is complete, and the SpaceX and NASA teams have reviewed all the data for certification, SpaceX will launch Crew Dragon’s first six-month operational mission (Crew-1) later this year. The Crew-1 spacecraft is in production and astronaut training is well underway,” SpaceX shared on May 1st.
The Falcon 9 rocket that will launch the Crew Dragon spacecraft into orbit underwent a successful static-fire test on April 24th. This preflight preparation ensures the rocket is working optimally. – “The team at SpaceX’s rocket development facility in McGregor, Texas completed a static fire test [...] of the Falcon 9 first stage that will launch Crew Dragon’s first operational mission (Crew-1) with 3 NASA astronauts and 1 JAXA astronaut onboard later this year,” SpaceX announced.
Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency, JAXA, released a cool mission patch for Crew-1, pictured below.
Correction: It appears this is the JAXA patch for Crew-1, rather than the SpaceX patch (one of the key identifiers, the four leaf clover, is missing and I should have spotted that).— Michael Sheetz (@thesheetztweetz) July 2, 2020
A very clean design nonetheless!