The United States is ready to launch NASA Astronauts for the first time in nearly a decade. The agency awarded SpaceX a Commercial Crew Program contract to develop the Crew Dragon spacecraft to return human spaceflight capabilities to America. Crew Dragon is capable of carrying 7 passengers, SpaceX says – “It is the only spacecraft currently flying that is capable of returning significant amounts of cargo to Earth, and will soon become the first private spacecraft to take humans to the space station.” Dragon features cutting-edge technology, during its first mission, Demo-1, the craft showcased its capability of docking autonomously to the International Space Station (ISS).
Dragon is equipped with one of the world’s most advanced parachute systems. Engineers tested its parachutes almost one hundred times. The spacecraft has a launch escape system consisting of eight SuperDraco engines that give it the capability to escape danger automatically. SpaceX tested the feature during an In-Flight Abort test in January. During the test, Falcon 9’s engines were intentionally shutdown to cause Dragon to trigger its launch escape system, which caused Crew Dragon to ignite its engines to fly away from danger and conduct a parachute-assisted landing in the ocean. Dragon demonstrated superior capacity to rescue astronauts in the unlikely event of a rocket malfunction mid-flight.
SpaceX’s first crewed flight is the spacecraft’s Demo-2 mission, meant to certify it as a human safe craft. “Demo-2 is the final major test for SpaceX’s human spaceflight system to be certified by NASA for operational crew missions to and from the International Space Station. SpaceX is returning human spaceflight to the United States with one of the safest, most advanced systems ever built, and NASA’s Commercial Crew Program is a turning point for America’s future in space exploration that lays the groundwork for future missions to the Moon, Mars, and beyond,” the company stated.
Before our Apollo astronauts launched to the Moon, they walked out of these doors at @NASAKennedy.— NASA (@NASA) May 25, 2020
When we launch @AstroBehnken & @Astro_Doug to space on May 27, these doors will open again.
Set a reminder to watch history unfold as we #LaunchAmerica: https://t.co/aDCqPUo83p pic.twitter.com/rI1zKsQN8K
The NASA astronauts who will launch next week aboard Crew Dragon are veteran pilots Astronaut Robert “Bob” Behnken and Astronaut Douglas “Doug” Hurley. Demo-2 is scheduled for Wednesday, May 27. A special Falcon rocket, sporting NASA’s retro ‘worm’ logo will lift off from Launch Pad 39A at around 4:33 p.m. Eastern Time, carrying Dragon into low Earth orbit. Astronauts are expected to test out the spacecraft’s manual capabilities during the upcoming mission. This week, they rehearsed launch day operations one final time ahead of flight. Behnken shared a collection of photographs via Twitter.
During a recent question-and-answer session from astronaut crew quarters at the Kennedy Space Center, Behnken and Hurley revealed they will continue the tradition of naming spacecraft. Though, they did not reveal the special name they gave Dragon, it will be revealed before the historic flight on Wednesday. Astronaut Behnken happily said:
“We have to save some suspense for the mission itself, but we do have a name and we will break it out appropriately. We've got something for you to look forward to on launch day.”
WATCH THE QUESTION & ANSWER SESSION
Hurley added that naming the Dragon spacecraft is – “a great idea and a tradition we should continue… We feel honored to continue this tradition."
Astronaut’s naming a spacecraft is a true tradition, when they radio mission control having a name for the craft is useful. When astronauts landed on the moon under the agency’s Apollo program the two spacecraft – the command module and a lunar lander — used to carry out the Apollo 11 mission were referred to as ‘Columbia’ and ‘Eagle.’ Then, during the agency’s Space Shuttle program every ship in the fleet had a unique name. The last Space Shuttle that transported the crew to space in 2011 is named ‘Atlantis.’ In Fact, Astronaut Hurley was part of the crew during the last Space Shuttle mission launched from American soil. Now, ten years later, he is set to ignite a new era in human spaceflight.
Tomorrow, May 25, the agency will host a Demo-2 Pre-Launch Conference that will be live-streamed via NASA TV after 6:00 p.m. EDT. See Video and Schedule below.
NASA LIVE BROADCAST SCHEDULE
Watch all upcoming NASA events Live on the video linked below. Schedule is in Eastern Time.
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.
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.