NASA and SpaceX are one week away from conducting the first astronaut launch to the International Space Station (ISS) in nearly a decade. The Demo-2 mission will return human spaceflight capabilities to the United States after being dependent on Russian spacecraft to launch astronauts to the orbiting laboratory since 2011. Demo-2 is a demonstration test flight meant to test out Crew Dragon’s capabilities.
During the test flight, veteran Astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley, mission control personnel, alongside SpaceX engineers from the ground, will assess the performance of the spacecraft’s control systems, including displays, environmental hardware, maneuvering thrusters, autonomous docking capability, as well as the spacecrafts performance during manual control. The astronauts will pilot the craft manually during a couple of moments as they approach the orbiting laboratory.
The agency hosted a Flight Readiness Review conference in which SpaceX and NASA personnel discuss all the mission’s plans and operations to determine if everything and everyone is ready for the vital flight. The conference’s discussion has been extended for tomorrow afternoon. At the end of the conference, the panel will determine if SpaceX's Crew Dragon spacecraft is ready to carry Astronauts Behnken and Hurley to space on May 27th. NASA officials said in a statement on May 21:
“Today the SpaceX, commercial crew and space station communities held thorough discussions about requirements for NASA's SpaceX Demo-2 flight test, but still have a few topics remaining for discussion during the Flight Readiness Review and will continue those on Friday.”
NASA initially planned to complete the Flight Readiness meeting on May 20 then share the results with the press at six in the afternoon at 6:00 p.m. EDT. "Agency and SpaceX managers gathered at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida to focus on the readiness of the Crew Dragon and systems for the Demo-2 mission; the readiness of the International Space Station Program and its international partners to support the flight; and the certification of flight readiness," NASA officials wrote in a press release. The conference will continue until tomorrow, and the agency will share the results one hour after the discussion – exact time is still unknown.
The review is lead by Steve Jurczyk, NASA Associate Administrator, and the senior SpaceX official in attendance at the review is Hans Koenigsmann, vice president for Build and Flight Reliability. NASA shared: “During the review, NASA and SpaceX personnel will hear presentations from key leaders such as Kathy Lueders, manager for the Commercial Crew Program at NASA, Kirk Shireman, manager for the International Space Station Program at NASA, Joe Petrzelka, the Senior Director of Dragon Engineering at SpaceX, Bala Ramamurthy, the Demo-2 Launch Chief Engineer at SpaceX, and Benji Reed, Director of Crew Mission Management at SpaceX, among others.”
Assuming the agency’s program and mission officials determine that the spacecraft is ready for the historic flight, Behnken and Hurley will launch on a journey to the space station on Wednesday at 4:32 p.m EDT. a Falcon 9 rocket will liftoff from Launch Pad 39A of NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida.
On Thursday, the Falcon 9 rocket was raised vertical at the launch pad. SpaceX crews will soon fuel it with rocket-grade kerosene and cryogenic liquid oxygen propellants to conduct a static-fire test. During the static-firing, the rocket’s nine Merlin 1D engines will be ignited for a few seconds while its grounded to the launch pad. The test is to assess the rocket has no issues before flight.
One step closer to launch! 🚀— NASA's Kennedy Space Center (@NASAKennedy) May 21, 2020
The @SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon are now on the launch pad ahead of liftoff, which is slated for May 27 at 4:33 pm ET. The mission will mark the first time astronauts have launched from U.S. soil since 2011: https://t.co/6ZixIS3upc pic.twitter.com/DOjQRqUp2g
On May 22, NASA astronauts will participate in a virtual question-and-answer [Q&A] session, which will initiate at 2:15 p.m. Eastern Time. Behnken and Hurley will be interviewed via video conference from Astronaut Crew Quarters at the Kennedy Space Center. Watch it live via NASA TV, in the video below. The interview will followed by a week-long series of conferences, interviews, and pre-launch activities that will also be broadcasted live (schedule below).
(All times in Eastern Time)
Friday, May 22
2:15 p.m. – Astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley virtual media question-and-answer session
No earlier than 6 p.m. [Time pending] -Flight Readiness Review -continues
Monday, May 25
No earlier than 6 p.m. – Demo-2 prelaunch news conference
Tuesday, May 26
10 a.m. – NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine media availability at Kennedy’s Countdown Clock
Wednesday, May 27
Noon – Live views of the SpaceX/Falcon 9 rocket on Launch Pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center
12:15 p.m. – Live countdown coverage of NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 mission to the International Space Station (launch scheduled at 4:33 p.m.)
6 p.m. – Demo-2 postlaunch news conference
Thursday, May 28
11:39 a.m. – Docking of the SpaceX Crew Dragon and NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley to the International Space Station
1:55 p.m. – SpaceX Crew Dragon hatch opening to the International Space Station
2:25 p.m. – SpaceX Crew Dragon and International Space Station crew media event aboard the space station
Friday, May 29
11:05 a.m. – International Space Station Expedition 63 crew news conference with space station Commander Chris Cassidy of NASA and NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley
12:50 p.m. – International Space Station Expedition 63 in-flight event for SpaceX to mark the arrival of the Demo-2 crew