Source: NASA / SpaceX
The historic Demo-2 mission is nine days away! NASA and SpaceX are conducting final preparations to launch Astronauts Douglas Hurley and Robert Behnken to the International Space Station (ISS) aboard the Crew Dragon spacecraft. It will be the first crewed mission launched from the United States since 2011. Demo-2 is scheduled for May 27th at 4:32 p.m. EDT. a Falcon 9 rocket will lift off into space on a voyage to the International Space Station (ISS).
The Crew Dragon has arrived to Launch Complex 39A! 🐉— NASA's Kennedy Space Center (@NASAKennedy) May 18, 2020
This spacecraft will carry @AstroBehnken and @Astro_Doug to the @Space_Station when it launches atop a @SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on May 27, at 4:33 p.m. ET: https://t.co/yvfOCG49U8 pic.twitter.com/Tdtdaucdef
Today, NASA announced SpaceX transferred the Crew Dragon spacecraft from a fueling facility at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station to a hangar nearby Launch Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. In the days ahead, the Dragon craft will be mounted atop a Falcon 9 rocket awaiting the historic flight. “The pace of prelaunch activities continues to pick up at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida as teams prepare for the upcoming launch of the agency’s SpaceX Demo-2 mission — the first launch of astronauts from America’s premier multi-user spaceport in nearly a decade,” the agency wrote in a press release.
“Demo-2 will serve as an end-to-end flight test to validate the SpaceX crew transportation system, and 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.”
NASA-provided b-roll of SpaceX's Crew Dragon arriving at pad 39A last Friday. Transported from processing facility at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. pic.twitter.com/QKjCduS0je— Emre Kelly (@EmreKelly) May 18, 2020
Before Dragon was transported, its engines and thrusters were fueled with hypergolic hydrazine and nitrogen tetroxide propellants. SpaceX teams will soon begin inspecting the spacecraft and rocket for Demo-2 a final time inside the hangar at Kennedy. Then crews will attach Dragon atop Falcon 9, horizontally, and ensure all mechanisms work well. Then, they will use a crane to lift the gigantic 215 feet rocket vertically to transport it about four miles to Launch Pad 39A. SpaceX will conduct a static-fire test sometime next week, when the rocket goes vertical it will be fueled. This test is meant to verify there are no issues with the nine Merlin engines on the rocket booster. Assuming the brief firing goes smoothly, the rocket will await its debut flight that will ignite a new era in American human spaceflight.
NASA also shared the Crew Dragon craft underwent hundreds of safety tests to ensure astronauts will be safe if there were to be an emergency midflight. Also, tests that showcased the crafts ability to land safely under any condition from space upon mission completion – “In preparation for splashdown, a series of drop tests were conducted at NASA Langley to ensure Crew Dragon can safely bring astronauts home. The test allowed researchers to see how the capsule may impact the water during splashdown with different wind and parachute dynamics,” the agency shared via Twitter. Upon return, the craft will cross Earth's atmosphere to perform a parachute-assisted landing in the ocean with astonauts aboard.
In preparation for splashdown, a series of drop tests were conducted at @NASA_Langley to ensure Crew Dragon can safely bring astronauts home. 🚀— NASA Commercial Crew (@Commercial_Crew) May 15, 2020
The test allowed researchers to see how the capsule may impact the water during splashdown with different wind and parachute dynamics. pic.twitter.com/LxasLbQLwE
Astronauts Behnken and Hurley are currently under quarantine in Houston, Texas at the Johnson Space Center. On Wednesday, they travel to Florida’s Kennedy Space Center aboard a NASA Gulfstream jet to prepare for flight. NASA says a Flight Readiness Review begins at Kennedy on May 21st. This will be the final week astronauts have to review their training and prepare to take the historic flight, which will pave the way for future crewed flights.
“This is a very exciting time,” NASA Administrator Jim 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.”
In the midst of the global pandemic, preparations for Demo-2 continued with many precautions. NASA has strict guidelines in place to protect astronaut’s health and personnel. Most of the work-force has been working from home, with only mission-essential personnel working on-site. The agency even limited contact with Behnken and Hurley during training and preparations to avoid putting their health at risk before the vital mission. The Kennedy Space Center will remain closed to the public during the mission, and government officials are urging people to stay home due to the virus outbreak. “The challenge that we’re up against right now is we want to keep everybody safe,” Bridenstine said at a news briefing earlier this month. “We’re asking people not to travel to the Kennedy Space Center… that makes me sad to even say it. Boy, I wish we could make this into something really spectacular.” Bridenstine encouraged the public to watch the launch virtually. NASA and SpaceX will live stream the launch.
Astronaut Behnken shared a collection of photographs showcasing public support- "My neighborhood has been at it again. Just in case NASA or SpaceX needs a backup countdown calendar, they've got it covered!"
About the Author
Evelyn J. Arevalo joined Tesmanian in 2019 to cover news as a Space Journalist and SpaceX Starbase Texas Correspondent. Evelyn is specialized in rocketry and space exploration. The main topics she covers are SpaceX and NASA.