Featured Image Source: NASA
The United States reemerged as a space power when SpaceX conducted the Demo-2 mission that launched NASA astronauts from American soil for the first time in almost ten years. SpaceX reignited the spirit of human space exploration as Falcon 9’s nine Merlin engines lifted off from Launch Pad 39A at Florida’s Kennedy Space Center. Falcon 9 propelled the Crew Dragon spacecraft to orbit with Robert ‘Bob’ Behnken and Douglas ‘Doug’ Hurley aboard. After a 19-hour voyage to the International Space Station (ISS), Crew Dragon docked to the station’s Harmony module on May 31st.
Behnken and Hurley joined NASA Astronaut Chris Cassidy, Russian Cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner, as members of Expedition 63.
The Demo-2 mission is a demonstration test that aims to ensure the Crew Dragon spacecraft is well-suited to perform operational missions with more astronauts aboard. The astronauts and engineers at SpaceX’s Mission Control have been monitoring the spacecraft’s performance as its docked to the orbiting laboratory. 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,” Lueders said. SpaceX's second crewed mission, Crew-1, will deploy four astronauts aboard Crew Dragon later this year.
For 1-hour, four out of five astronauts at ISS performed a 'comfort test' inside the docked spacecraft on July 8. “NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken, who piloted the Crew Dragon, will be joined by station Commander Chris Cassidy and Flight Engineer Anatoly Ivanishin for the one-hour habitability test. The crew will arrange the cabin to suit the four-space residents and report their comfort levels to engineers on the ground,” NASA wrote in a press release:
“Four out of the five Expedition 63 crew members assessed comfort factors inside the docked SpaceX Crew Dragon...This is a demonstration of the Crew Dragon’s habitability ahead of the SpaceX Crew-1 mission planned for later this year.”
Today, the agency released a video clip of the astronauts aboard Dragon, as they performed the habitability test, shown below.
“Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken performed a series of tests to verify Crew Dragon’s features and functions while in orbit around Earth, including opening and closing the hatch, operating Dragon’s waste system, donning their spacesuits, and moving cargo back into the vehicle.”
- “They were also joined by two more crew members to test Dragon’s sleeping configuration to assess the spacecraft, and determine what improvements can be made for future crews,” NASA commentator said in the video.
Above the spacecraft’s seats, there is a control panel consisting of three screens with touchscreen display. The craft also has a restroom section with a privacy curtain; first-aid, and fire-extinguishing equipment. The crew was expected to also run through emergency procedures aboard Dragon to assess how well the spacecraft is suited for a larger crew. The agency said it would release more details of the habitability test next week.
NASA says it will post more footage and details about the test next week.— Michael Sheetz (@thesheetztweetz) July 10, 2020
“The Demo-2 mission is the final major step before NASA’s Commercial Crew Program certifies Crew Dragon for operational, long-duration missions to the space station,” the agency’s commentator added, “This certification and regular operation of Crew Dragon, will enable NASA to continue important research and technology investigations taking place aboard the station, which benefits people on Earth and lays the groundwork for future exploration to the moon and Mars.” The International Space Station's Deputy Program Manager Kenneth Todd said Astronaut's Behnken and Hurley will return to Earth aboard Dragon on August 2nd. Before that, Astronauts Cassidy and Behnken are scheduled to conduct another spacewalk this month.