Falcon 9, Crew Dragon In Position At Launch Pad

Sunday, 24 May, 2020

It will also be only the fifth time in US history that NASA astronauts will fly a new spacecraft for the first time.

The shift to private companies allows NASA to zero in on deep space travel.

The launch will be the first manned spaceflight from the United States since 2011, and will see NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken blast off from the Kennedy Space Center before docking with the International Space Station.

Meanwhile, NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley on Wednesday arrived at the launch and landing facility at NASA's Kennedy Space Center ahead of SpaceX's Demo-2 mission.

The launch will take place on Wednesday at the John F. Kennedy Space Center on Merritt Island.

The spacecraft is 13 feet across and 26.7 feet tall with a launch weight of more than 13,200 pounds. SpaceX has just test-fired the Falcon 9's first-stage engines as part of the final series of tests needed before launch.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the company's Crew Dragon spacecraft on board rises upright on the launch pad of Launch Complex 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center on May 21
NASA gives crucial thumbs-up to SpaceX’s historic crewed flight to space station

Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken have been training for five years for the mission of the Crew Dragon capsule, inside which everything is controlled by touch screens. This will include verifying the performance of the spacecraft's displays and control system, environmental control system, maneuvering thrusters, autonomous docking capability, and more. It's created to autonomously dock with the space station, according to NASA. According to a May 22 post on the NASA commercial crew blog, the length of the stay will be determined by the "readiness of the next commercial crew launch".

Kirk Shireman, NASA ISS program manager, said SpaceX made an unspecified change to the spacecraft after the Demo-1 mission to fix a "very, very remote" possibility of a spacecraft failure that could damage the station. He noted that SpaceX tweaked the Crew Dragon's design after last year's successful uncrewed demonstration flight to the space station, to address a potential collision risk that the Russians called to attention. Ames researchers invented the original version of the heat shield material used for the Dragon spacecraft, transferred the technology to SpaceX, and performed testing in the Ames arc jet facilities, which simulate the high speed and heat of reentering the atmosphere.

President Donald Trump plans to travel to Florida on Wednesday to watch the launch of SpaceX's manned test mission to the International Space Station, according to a USA official, as he seeks to project an image of normalcy amid the coronavirus pandemic. It takes about 24 hours to reach the station.

Leading up to launch, all astronauts undergo a standard preflight quarantine to prevent bringing any viruses or unwanted bacteria up to space. NASA is also providing the coverage of the upcoming prelaunch and launch activities for the mission. A SpaceX recovery vessel will then return it to Cape Canaveral.

But he's also sent confusing signs on his administration's goals, tweeting last year that "NASA should NOT be talking about going to the Moon - We did that 50 years ago".