SpaceX’s first astronaut flight: All it’s essential know concerning the Demo-2 mission

SpaceX’s first astronaut flight: All it’s essential know concerning the Demo-2 mission

This artist’s impression exhibits Crew Dragon docking to the ISS.


In July 2011, NASA’s Area Shuttle Atlantis launched from Florida to the Worldwide Area Station with 4 astronauts on board. That was the final time people traveled to house from US soil. The lengthy drought ought to quickly be over as SpaceX prepares to ship two NASA astronauts to the ISS inside a purpose-built Crew Dragon capsule on Could 27. 

The mission, often known as Demo-2, was initially deliberate to launch in 2019, however has had its justifiable share of setbacks. With security checks on the capsule full, nonetheless, NASA and SpaceX are lastly able to fly. We have rounded up all the pieces it’s essential know concerning the historic launch and when and the place you may tune in.

Demo-2: The fundamentals

Demo-2 is a part of NASA’s Business Crew Program, which entails two business spaceflight firms, SpaceX and Boeing, constructing and launching crew capsules designed to ferry astronauts to and from the ISS. 

SpaceX has a historical past of cargo and payload launches, however this would be the firm’s first time sending people off this rock. 

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When: The launch is scheduled for Wednesday, Could 27, at 1:33 p.m. PT/4:33 p.m ET.

The place: The Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon capsule will blast off from Launch Advanced 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Area Middle in Florida. The historic launch pad has beforehand hosted Apollo and house shuttle missions.

Why: NASA’s Business Crew Program is geared toward ending the US reliance on Russian spacecraft for ferrying astronauts to the ISS. NASA has been shopping for seats on Soyuz capsules because the finish of the shuttle program. 

That is additionally a part of a broader NASA push for business partnerships. “By encouraging trade to offer human transportation companies to and from low-Earth orbit, NASA can broaden its give attention to constructing spacecraft and rockets for deep house missions,” the house company stated

The Crew Dragon capsule arrived on the launch web site in February 2020 for last preparations.


The spacecraft: The SpaceX Crew Dragon is the human transportation model of the Dragon 2 capsule that has been used to hold cargo to the ISS. Whereas solely two astronauts shall be on board on the finish of Could, the capsule will be configured to hold as much as seven passengers.

The rocket: SpaceX’s confirmed Falcon 9 rocket will escort Crew Dragon by the launch. NASA’s iconic throwback “worm” emblem is emblazoned on the aspect of the rocket. Falcon 9s have efficiently launched dozens of SpaceX missions.

The Falcon 9 booster is reusable and can try to land on a SpaceX droneship stationed within the Atlantic Ocean.

The crew: NASA assigned astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley to Crew Dragon again in 2018. Each have been to house on totally different shuttle missions, with Hurley flying on the ultimate flight of the house shuttle Atlantis in 2011. They shall be carrying spacesuits designed in-house by SpaceX.

The aim: If SpaceX passes muster throughout Demo-2, then NASA will certify Crew Dragon for normal flights backwards and forwards to the ISS. The house company is already waiting for this consequence and has assigned astronauts to the primary Crew Dragon operational mission, which may launch earlier than the top of the 12 months if all goes effectively.

How one can watch the Demo-2 mission reside

NASA will present streaming protection of prelaunch, launch and ISS docking actions by NASA TV. 

Prelaunch protection begins at 9:15 a.m. PT on Could 27 forward of the scheduled 1:33 p.m. PT liftoff time. NASA TV will present steady protection from launch by docking. Crew Dragon’s arrival on the ISS is about for 8:29 a.m. PT on Thursday, Could 28. 

Making historical past

NASA is viewing the SpaceX Demo-2 mission because the daybreak of “a brand new period of human spaceflight.”  

NASA awarded the unique Business Crew Program contracts to SpaceX and Boeing in 2014 with an eye fixed to launching astronauts in 2017. Delays are widespread throughout spacecraft improvement and each SpaceX and Boeing bumped into their share of hiccups. Boeing continues to be working by a sequence of technical points that cropped up throughout a take a look at flight of its Starliner car in late 2019.

SpaceX, nonetheless, efficiently accomplished the Demo-1 uncrewed spherical journey to the ISS in early 2019 and a vital in-flight abort take a look at originally of the 12 months, setting the stage for Demo-2. It is referred to as Demo-2 as a result of it is nonetheless, technically, a “demonstration” reasonably than a full-fledged house mission. It marks the ultimate take a look at for SpaceX and its Crew Dragon capsule and can enable Elon Musk’s spaceflight firm to attain human-rated certification of its spacecraft. 

Demo-2 may even be the primary time a two-person crew launched from america because the house shuttle Columbia departed for house, on the fourth mission of this system in 1982.

Meet the astronauts  

Behnken and Hurley entered preflight quarantine on Could 13. Prelaunch quarantines had been already customary process previous to the coronavirus pandemic, however NASA will add some additional steps to the method. “Hurley and Behnken, in addition to these in direct, shut contact with the crew shall be examined twice for the virus as a precaution,” NASA stated in a press release in Could.   

NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley shall be SpaceX’s first human passengers once they launch on the Demo- mission.


Bob Behnken: NASA chosen Behnken, an skilled Air Power pilot, as an astronaut in 2000. He final visited house on a shuttle mission in 2010. He has spent 708 hours in house, with 37 of these taken up by spacewalks. 

Behnken tweeted on Could 12 that he needed to get approval from his younger son earlier than launch.

Doug Hurley: Hurley, a retired Marine, was additionally chosen as an astronaut in 2000. A veteran of two house missions, he was final in orbit in 2011 on NASA’s last shuttle mission. That provides some poetry to Hurley’s project to Demo-2. He was one of many final astronauts to launch from US soil and shall be one of many first to do it once more. 

Hurley shared his personal son’s drawing of Crew Dragon in late April.

NASA has not but determined precisely how lengthy Behnken and Hurley will stay on the ISS. “They’ll carry out assessments on Crew Dragon along with conducting analysis and different duties with the house station crew,” stated NASA. The astronauts will return on Crew Dragon and splash down within the Atlantic the place they are going to be greeted by a SpaceX restoration vessel. 

Could 27 is about to mark a significant milestone in house historical past. It isn’t simply concerning the patriotic overtones of launching American astronauts from American soil utilizing an American rocket. 

SpaceX and NASA are set to choose up a dropped thread in human spaceflight, filling the void left by the retirement of the house shuttles. We’re fairly good at sending robotic explorers to far-flung locations within the photo voltaic system, however the stakes are at all times larger when human lives are concerned. The world shall be watching.

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