SpaceX’s first astronaut flight: All it’s worthwhile to know in regards to the Demo-2 mission

SpaceX’s first astronaut flight: All it’s worthwhile to know in regards to the Demo-2 mission

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


In July 2011, NASA’s House Shuttle Atlantis launched from Florida to the Worldwide House Station with 4 astronauts on board. That was the final time people traveled to area 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 Wednesday, Might 27. 

The mission, generally known as Demo-2, was initially deliberate to launch in 2019, however has had its fair proportion of setbacks. With security checks on the capsule full, nevertheless, NASA and SpaceX are lastly able to fly. We have rounded up every thing it’s worthwhile to know in regards to the historic launch and when and the place you possibly can tune in.

Demo-2: The fundamentals

Demo-2 is a part of NASA’s Industrial Crew Program, which includes two industrial 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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SpaceX set to to take its first astronauts into area


When: The launch is scheduled for Wednesday, Might 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 Complicated 39A at NASA’s Kennedy House Heart in Florida. The historic launch pad has beforehand hosted Apollo and area shuttle missions.

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

That is additionally a part of a broader NASA push for industrial partnerships. “By encouraging business to supply human transportation providers to and from low-Earth orbit, NASA can broaden its deal with constructing spacecraft and rockets for deep area missions,” the area company mentioned

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 can be on board on the finish of Might, the capsule could be configured to hold as much as seven passengers.

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

The Falcon 9 booster is reusable and can try and 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 area on totally different shuttle missions, with Hurley flying on the ultimate flight of the area shuttle Atlantis in 2011. They can be carrying spacesuits designed in-house by SpaceX.

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

Find out how to watch the Demo-2 mission dwell

NASA will present streaming protection of prelaunch, launch and ISS docking actions by way of NASA TV. The launch timing can be depending on good climate situations each on the launch web site and out within the ocean the place the crew capsule would splash down in case of an emergency throughout launch.

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

Discovery and Science Channel will supply a unique view of the proceedings with its House Launch Stay occasion beginning at 11 a.m. PT. The lineup contains singer Katy Perry and YouTube star and former NASA engineer Mark Rober together with each former and present NASA astronauts. “Our dwell particular provides each unbelievable entry for the launch, and professional perception from SpaceX Founder and Chief Engineer Elon Musk and different main aerospace professionals,” Discovery mentioned in a launch on Might 20

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 Industrial Crew Program contracts to SpaceX and Boeing in 2014 with a watch to launching astronauts in 2017. Delays are frequent throughout spacecraft improvement and each SpaceX and Boeing bumped into their share of hiccups. Boeing remains to be working by way of a sequence of technical points that cropped up throughout a take a look at flight of its Starliner car in late 2019.

SpaceX, nevertheless, efficiently accomplished the Demo-1 uncrewed spherical journey to the ISS in early 2019 and a essential in-flight abort take a look at firstly 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” moderately than a full-fledged area 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 also be the primary time a two-person crew launched from the US for the reason that area shuttle Columbia departed for area, on the fourth mission of this system in 1982.

Meet the astronauts  

Behnken and Hurley entered preflight quarantine on Might 13. Prelaunch quarantines have been already commonplace 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 can be examined twice for the virus as a precaution,” NASA mentioned in a press release in Might.   

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


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

Behnken tweeted on Might 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 area 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 can 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 may carry out assessments on Crew Dragon along with conducting analysis and different duties with the area station crew,” mentioned 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. 

Might 27 is ready to mark a significant milestone in area historical past. It is not simply in regards to 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 area shuttles. We’re fairly good at sending robotic explorers to far-flung locations within the photo voltaic system, however the stakes are all the time larger when human lives are concerned. The world can be watching.

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