For SpaceUpClose.com & RocketSTEM
CAPE CANAVERAL, FL – In a long awaited announced nearly a decade in the making NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine today set May 27 as the target date for the Return of American Human Spaceflight launches with two NASA astronauts set to fly to the International Space Station aboard a SpaceX commercial Dragon spacecraft on the Demo-2 mission from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Roughly 6 weeks from now veteran NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken will launch on a historic mission on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket under the auspices of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program – marking the resumption of American astronaut launches from American soil on American rockets for the first time since NASA’s shuttles were forcibly retired in 2011.
“BREAKING: On May 27, @NASA will once again launch American astronauts on American rockets from American soil! With our @SpaceX partners, @Astro_Doug and @AstroBehnken will launch to the @Space_Station on the #CrewDragon spacecraft atop a Falcon 9 rocket. Let’s #LaunchAmerica,” Bridenstine announced on twitter.
BREAKING: On May 27, @NASA will once again launch American astronauts on American rockets from American soil! With our @SpaceX partners, @Astro_Doug and @AstroBehnken will launch to the @Space_Station on the #CrewDragon spacecraft atop a Falcon 9 rocket. Let's #LaunchAmerica 🇺🇸 pic.twitter.com/RINb3mfRWI
— Jim Bridenstine (@JimBridenstine) April 17, 2020
The SpaceX Crew Dragon will launch atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley on the Demo-2 test flight from historic Launch Complex 39A from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 4:32 p.m. EDT for an extended mission. The specific duration is yet to be determined says NASA.
Demo-2 marks the first mission of a SpaceX Dragon to carry humans and the 1st crewed mission in NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.
“LAUNCH UPDATE: Our first crewed @SpaceX mission with @AstroBehnken and @Astro_Doug is set for liftoff May 27 at 4:32pm ET from @NASAKennedy.@NASA_Astronauts will once again launch on American-made rockets from American soil. Get ready to #LaunchAmerica: http://www.nasa.gov/launchamerica,” NASA announced on twitter.
LAUNCH UPDATE: Our first crewed @SpaceX mission with @AstroBehnken and @Astro_Doug is set for liftoff May 27 at 4:32pm ET from @NASAKennedy.@NASA_Astronauts will once again launch on American-made rockets from American soil. Get ready to #LaunchAmerica: https://t.co/kMRxVZ6KgE pic.twitter.com/DZ0HJcwcDB
— NASA (@NASA) April 17, 2020
Normally massive crowds of spectators from across America and around the world would be expected to descend on the Florida Space Coast to witness the sure to be super thrilling historic liftoff.
But the announcement on the history making SpaceX Demo-2 launch comes amidst the ongoing coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic crisis – so its unclear how much if any public viewing and tourism will be allowed.
The Demo-2 Crew Dragon has been undergoing final pre-launch testing, processing and preparations for launch locally in a SpaceX facility on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station for well over 2 months since it arrived at the Florida Space Coast on Feb. 13 after being shipped from the SpaceX manufacturing factory in Hawthorne, California.
The path to blastoff of Demo-2 was paved following the successful SpaceX In Flight Abort (IFA) test in January and the uncrewed Demo-1 mission in March 2019. See our earlier articles and photos.
“This second demonstration mission of the Crew Dragon spacecraft is another end-to-end flight test of SpaceX’s human spaceflight system, which will include launch, docking, splashdown and recovery operations. It is the final flight test of the system before SpaceX is certified to carry out operational crew flights to and from the space station for NASA,” says NASA.
The Demo-2 mission is expected to last at least a few weeks or more after docking at the ISS.
NASA said the mission duration had not yet been determined.
This test Crew Dragon can stay at the station a maximum of 110 days. The Demo-2 duration wil depend on when the next commercial crew vehicle is ready – most likely the 1st operational SpaceX Crew Dragon which can stay at station for at least 210 days.
Hurley and Behnken will join the Expedition 63 crew when they arrive.
Expedition 63 officially began aboard the station on Thursday April 16 with NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy serving as station commander and Roscosmos’ Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner serving as flight engineers – and after the Expedition 62 crew departed on Thursday aboard the Soyuz MS-15 spacecraft with Meir, Morgan and Skripochka. Read our stories.
Doug Hurley was the pilot on the last manned spaceflight mission flown from the US – namely the STS-135 mission of Space Shuttle Atlantis that lifted off on July 7, 2011 from historic Launch Complex 39A – the same pad from which Demo-2 will blastoff. He also flew on STS-127 in July 2009
Hurley will command Demo-2 and is responsible for launch, landing and recovery.
Behnken is a veteran of two space shuttle missions. He flew on STS-123 in March 2008 and STS-130 in February 2010.
Behnken will serve as joint operations commander, responsible for activities such as rendezvous, docking and undocking as well as Demo-2 activities while the Dragon is docked at the ISS.
Both the SpaceX Crew Dragon and competing Boeing Starliner commercial spacecraft were developed to restore US human spaceflight and fly our astronauts to low earth orbit and the ISS with funding under the auspices of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.
Crew Dragon will clearly win the race to restore US human spaceflight before the competing Starliner crew spaceship from competitor Boeing.
Boeing botched their critical uncrewed Orbital Test Flight (OFT) mission in December that failed to dock at the ISS after launch due to a significant timing error in the elapsed timing controller.
Boeing recently announced they will now conduct a second OFT test flight before attempting and crewed mission
Watch Ken’s continuing reports onsite for live reporting of Demo-2 Crew Dragon and upcoming and recent ULA and SpaceX launches including Boeing Starliner, Crew and Cargo Dragon, Solar Orbiter, In-Flight Abort and Starlink at the Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Earth and Planetary science and human spaceflight news: www.kenkremer.com –www.spaceupclose.com – twitter @ken_kremer – email: ken at kenkremer.com
Dr. Kremer is a research scientist and journalist based in the KSC area, active in outreach and interviewed regularly on TV and radio about space topics.
Ken’s photos are for sale and he is available for lectures and outreach events