SpaceX will ignite a new era in American spaceflight today! The United States has not launched NASA Astronauts to space ever since the Space Shuttle fleet was retired in 2011. The agency funded SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft development under a Commercial Crew Contract to return human spaceflight capabilities to America. Now, almost ten years later, NASA and SpaceX will launch astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS). Today, May 27, SpaceX will conduct its first crewed mission. A Falcon 9 rocket will lift off at 4:33 p.m. EDT. from Launch Complex 39A at the John F. Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, carrying NASA Astronaut Robert “Bob” Behnken and Astronaut Douglas “Doug” Hurley aboard the Dragon spacecraft. Launch Pad 39A is the same location where the Saturn V rocket lifted off from to propel astronauts to the Lunar surface during the agency’s Apollo moon landing program. The Astronauts arrived to the launch pad about half an hour ago.
📍 @AstroBehnken and @Astro_Doug have arrived to Launch Complex 39A!— NASA Commercial Crew (@Commercial_Crew) May 27, 2020
Here, the launch team will lead the astronauts to the 265-foot level of the launch tower to board the Crew Dragon spacecraft.
Watch live 🚀 https://t.co/YeWrpz41EN pic.twitter.com/PjAEGhUPtI
Today's mission is referred to as Demo-2, NASA stated in a press release:
“The test flight also will provide valuable data toward certification of SpaceX’s crew transportation system for regular flights carrying astronauts to and from the space station. SpaceX currently is readying the hardware for the first space station crew rotational mission, which would happen after data from this test flight is reviewed for certification.”
.@ElonMusk and @JimBridenstine pose for a portrait with astronauts @Astro_Doug and @AstroBehnken before their launch today aboard the @SpaceX #CrewDragon. #LaunchAmerica | https://t.co/yuOTrYN8CV pic.twitter.com/3soWc9Q9cw— Intl. Space Station (@Space_Station) May 27, 2020
The founder and Chief Engineer at SpaceX Elon Musk and NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine were present as the Astronauts suited up for the historic flight. SpaceX designed and made these form-fitting pressure suits, with comfort in mind. The sleek black and white suit is maneuverable unlike NASA's Space Shuttle’s bulky orange suits. Each SpaceX suit is tailored and customized for the astronaut wearing it. The spacesuits are very stylish with the logos of both NASA and SpaceX, denoting the partnership. Astronauts have worked closely with the company over the past years by providing critical feedback on the ship designs and, of course, the spacesuits.
They have trained in these spacesuits too. The suit is meant to provide a pressurized environment for all crew members aboard the Dragon capsule, in case of an emergency such as cabin depressurization. SpaceX's slip-on, one-piece suit features a single connection point between the suit and vehicle, a communications system to communicate with each other and the craft, as well as hearing protection which will protect astronaut's ears during the rocket launch ascent and spacecraft reentry.
SpaceX spacesuits are designed for optimum functionality with Dragon pic.twitter.com/QW4DirDirx— SpaceX (@SpaceX) May 27, 2020
It also has two internal layers, a flame-resistant outer layer and an inner cooling system. The space helmet is 3D printed with solar radiation protection. The boots feature heel sliders which help to secure feet to footrests. The gloves are flexible and specifically designed to be compatible with touchscreen devices. Crew Dragon's control and pilot system consists of a trio of touchscreen displays. The agency announced today:
"Happening Now Rocket The launch team is strapping astronauts
Behnken and Hurley into their seats and connecting to Crew Dragon’s systems. Next, the team will close the spacecraft hatch and begin to exit. Liftoff is scheduled for 4:33 p.m. ET."
Happening Now 🚀 The launch team is strapping astronauts @AstroBehnken and @Astro_Doug into their seats and connecting to Crew Dragon’s systems.— NASA Commercial Crew (@Commercial_Crew) May 27, 2020
Next, the team will close the spacecraft hatch and begin to exit. Liftoff is scheduled for 4:33 p.m. ET: https://t.co/YeWrpz41EN pic.twitter.com/a8ZWJFizp5
Astronaut Hurley, who is 53 years old, will be the spacecraft commander for Demo-2, responsible for activities such as launch, landing, and recovery. While, Astronaut Behnken, 49 years old, will be the joint operations commander for the Demo-2 mission. He will be responsible for Dragon’s rendezvous to the orbiting laboratory, as well as docking and undocking the craft. They are set to make history, when SpaceX return human spaceflight capabilities to the United States. Behnken and Hurley have two Space Shuttle missions of experience and have performed thousands of hours piloting supersonic jets.
Learn more about Dragon’s design pic.twitter.com/Fw5OZ9Ecwm— SpaceX (@SpaceX) May 27, 2020
Crew Dragon features cutting-edge technology and is able to operate autonomously. During's mission, the astronauts are tasked with testing all the spacecraft's features and will pilot the craft manually for a couple of instances. They will ride Dragon for about 19 hours. That gives them enough time to test the craft in space. The astronauts are expected to arrive at the orbiting laboratory on May 28.
The pair are best friends who both married astronauts and attended each other’s wedding. Astronaut Hurley is married to a NASA astronaut Karen Nyberg. And Astronaut Behnken is also married to a NASA Astronaut, Katherine Megan McArthur. Behnken and Hurley both have a small son under the age of ten.
The launch was expected to draw thousands of crowds to the Kennedy Space Station, due to the virus NASA is encouraging everyone to stay-at-home and watch the launch virtually. The agency will live stream the historic crewed mission to space on NASA Television channel – “Together with SpaceX, we will return human spaceflight to American soil after nearly a decade. May 27 is not only a big day for our teams – it’s a big day for our country.”
In an effort to celebrate the class of 2020 - from kindergarten to graduate school - SpaceX and NASA invited students from around the world to submit their photo to fly alongside astronauts aboard Dragon. All photos are printed in a mosaic of Earth. This gesture makes all students graduation more special, because they did not get a chance to celebrate with their friends amid the Coronavirus pandemic.
The mission will inspire the dreamer within everyone during a time the world truly needs a glimmer of inspiration. Watch the launch live in the video below! Schedule is in Eastern Time.
NASA LIVE BROADCAST SCHEDULE
Wednesday, May 27
12:15 p.m. – NASA TV launch coverage begins (continues through docking)
4:33 p.m. – Liftoff
5:22 p.m. – Crew Dragon phase burn
6:05 p.m. – Far-field manual flight test
7:05 p.m. – Astronaut downlink event from Crew Dragon
7:30 p.m. – Administrator postlaunch news conference at Kennedy
NASA Administrator Bridenstine
Kathy Lueders, SpaceX representative
Kirk Shireman, NASA Chief Astronaut Pat Forrester
Thursday, May 28
7:20 a.m. – Astronaut downlink event from Crew Dragon
11:39 a.m. – Docking
1:55 p.m. – Hatch Open
2:25 p.m. – Welcome ceremony
4:15 p.m. – Post-Arrival News Conference at Johnson
Mark Geyer, director, NASA’s Johnson Space Center
NASA Chief Astronaut Pat Forrester
Friday, May 29
11:05 a.m. – Space Station crew news conference, with NASA astronauts Chris Cassidy, Bob Behnken, and Doug Hurley
12:50 p.m. – SpaceX employee event and Class of 2020 Mosaic presentation, with NASA astronauts Chris Cassidy, Bob Behnken, and Doug Hurley
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.