SpaceX's first crewed Demo-2 flight may be a longer duration mission at the Space Station for NASA Astronauts

by Evelyn Arevalo February 25, 2020

SpaceX's first crewed Demo-2 flight may be a longer duration mission at the Space Station for NASA Astronauts

Featured Image Source: SpaceX/NASA

SpaceX is preparing to conduct their first manned mission known as Demo-2, will consist of launching two NASA astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) aboard their Crew Dragon spacecraft. Dragon will launch atop a Falcon 9 rocket from historic Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The Demo-2 mission could take place sometime between April and June this year. NASA officials are looking at May 7th as a potential target date (schedule is subject to change). Veteran NASA Astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley will be the first to fly aboard SpaceX's Crew Dragon spacecraft. They have been conducting all sorts of training exercises to be prepared for the United States' first manned rocket flight in nearly a decade! NASA announced:
"The big day is on the way: We're launching astronauts to space from American soil once again. Astronauts Hurley & Behnken continued space station & spacewalk training this week for their upcoming flight on NASA's SpaceX DM-2 Commercial Crew mission."
Initially, NASA was debating whether to make the Demo-2 mission a short duration or long duration mission because it would be the first time SpaceX Dragon's spacecraft is tested with humans onboard. Due to the fact that if the mission is turned into a short duration journey to the space station there would be a lack of crew in the orbiting laboratory, NASA would have to make Dragon's first crewed flight into a long duration mission so that both NASA astronauts stay at the ISS to conduct scientific research. This week, Behnken and Hurley initiated training for a mission that could include extravehicular activity (EVA), a spacewalk outside the orbiting laboratory. It seems the agency has made a decision to conduct a long duration mission to the station because Astronaut Behnken trained for a spacewalk, at Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory pool, which is a sign that he may stay longer at the station.

"Like all NASA astronauts, we’ll be ready for whatever Space Station needs during our visit."

Behnken wrote in response to his training photos. "These photos are just some of the recent training for NASA’s & SpaceX’s DM2 test flight. But for some reason, housekeeping (our top skill!) didn’t make the highlights…" he added jokingly.

While he trained for a spacewalk, Astronaut Hurley worked on robotics training, Hurley shared he also did some SpaceX-related training in Houston and that he was on his way to SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California to train -get more familiarized with the Dragon spacecraft, he said:

"The last week NASA Johnson included EVA and robotics training as well as medical testing and training. We also had a day of SpaceX lessons here in Houston. Headed back to California next week. More Crew Dragon training!"

During a press conference in January after the successful Dragon In-Flight Abort test that tested the craft's safety escape system, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said, "We might look at making that first crew be a longer duration crew for the purpose of getting the maximum amount of capability out of the International Space Station. It also gives us the opportunities to do extravehicular activities that may not right now be scheduled but may pop up based on things that happen on the ISS. It’s always better to have more crew on board to do those activities rather than less.”

According to Garrett Reisman, a former astronaut and SpaceX employee who is currently an advisor for SpaceX and professor at the University of Southern California, it appears NASA already decided to conduct a longer-duration Demo-2 mission because Behnken and Hurley "are being trained for a long-duration mission as ISS crew members. This is a change from the original plan to do a min. duration test flight, driven by NASA needs to staff the ISS" -Reisman stated via Twitter in reference to the photos NASA shared of Behnken training for a spacewalk.

The Crew Dragon spacecraft is undergoing final testing and pre-flight preparations in a SpaceX facility near Florida's Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Engineers have already conducted acoustic and electromagnetic interference testing to ensure the newly manufactured craft is in optimal conditions to take flight.

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