NASA and SpaceX Complete Launch Day Dress Rehearsal for 1st Crew Dragon Astronaut Launch: Photos

NASA astronauts Douglas Hurley (left) and Robert Behnken (right) participate in a dress rehearsal for launch at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on May 23, 2020, ahead of NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 mission to the International Space Station. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

For SpaceUpClose.com & RocketSTEM

CAPE CANAVERAL, FL – In one of their final major pre-launch training exercises NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley participated in a thorough countdown dry dress rehearsal today, May 23, at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida of the exact timeline of events they will run through on their history making launch aboard the 1st piloted Space X Crew Dragon mission planned for Wednesday, May 27 from Launch Complex-39A.

The veteran pair are preparing to launch aboard a commercial SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft on the company’s Falcon 9 rocket and fly to the International Space Station (ISS) on the Demo-2 test flight – which also counts as the first crewed mission for the agency’s Commercial Crew Program.

“@NASA astronauts @AstroBehnken and @Astro_Doug participate in a launch dress rehearsal @NASAKennedy several days ahead of the scheduled liftoff aboard the @SpaceX Crew Dragon to the @Space_Station,” NASA tweeted.

See a gallery of NASA photos below.

No human has launched to orbit from American soil in nearly 9 ultra-long years since the retirement of NASA’s space shuttles and its final launch on July 8, 2011 on the STS-135 mission to the ISS.

On May 23, 2020, Demo-2 crew members Robert Behnken (right) and Douglas Hurley walk down the hallway of the Neil A. Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida as they prepare to be transported to Launch Complex 39A during a full dress rehearsal ahead of launch. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

Liftoff of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with veteran 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 is slated for May 27 at 4:33 p.m. EDT (2033 GMT) for an extended mission.

The exact flight duration for Demo-2 has not yet been determined but is expected to range from 1 to 4 months.

On May 23, 2020, Demo-2 crew members Robert Behnken (right) and Douglas Hurley (left) walk out of the Neil A. Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida in preparation for transport to Launch Complex 39A during a full dress rehearsal ahead of launch. Photo credit: NASA/Brandon Garner

Unfortunately, the weather is not promising for Wednesday’s liftoff.

The U.S. Air Force 45th Weather Squadron are predicting only a 40% chance of favorable weather conditions for the SpaceX Demo-2 mission. The primary weather concerns for launch are flight through precipitation, thick and cumulus clouds.

Behnken and Hurley began their day today in the Astronaut Crew Quarters inside Kennedy’s Neil A. Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building.

Aided by technicians the pair “put on their black-and-white SpaceX spacesuits, took the elevator down to the ground level and exited through a pair of double doors, where their transport vehicle – a Tesla Model X — waited.

NASA astronauts Douglas Hurley, left, and Robert Behnken, wearing SpaceX spacesuits, are seen as they depart the Neil A. Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building for Launch Complex 39A during a dress rehearsal prior to the Demo-2 mission launch, Saturday, May 23, 2020, at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

They smiled and waved for those in attendance and the cameras and then climbed in for the 20-minute ride to Launch Complex 39A.

Along the way they passed by NASA’s iconic Vehicle Assembly Building

Here’s a video of their Tesla caravan ride to Launch Complex 39A from my friends at Spaceflight Now at the KSC press site on Saturday:

After arriving at the pad the pair took an elevator ride up the gantry to the Crew Access Arm and strode through to the hatch.

Technicians then helped Behnken and Hurley climb aboard the Crew Dragon spacecraft and strap into their seats and check their communications systems before the hatch was closed.

Credit: NASA

The dry dress rehearsal concluded as planned with the go/no-go poll for Falcon 9 propellant loading, which normally occurs starting 45 minutes before launch.

Saturday’s rehearsal than ended with no propellants being loaded into the rockets first and second stages as planned.

“SpaceX and @NASA completed a full rehearsal of launch day activities with @AstroBehnken and @Astro_Doug ahead of Crew Demo-2,” SpaceX tweeted.

The Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon spacecraft have been in place on the launch pad since Thursday morning, May 21.

On Friday the combined NASA and SpaceX teams completed a two day long Flight Readiness Review followed by a successful test firing of the critical 1st stage engines later in the afternoon.

After the FRR the NASA and SpaceX teams gave the GO for launch of the first SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and integrated Crew Dragon spacecraft that will launch humans to space on its historic 1st astronaut mission slated for next week Wednesday, May 27 from the Florida Space Coast to the International Space Station (ISS) – as part of the agency’s Commercial Crew Program.

The static test fire of the rocket took place as planned Friday, May 22 at 4:33 p.m. ET (933 GMT) to coincide with the actual planned launch time next Wednesday, May 27.

SpaceX conducts successful static fire test of Falcon 9 first stage engines at 4:33 p.m. EDT on May 22 with exhaust spewing out from the flame trench at Launch Complex-39A on NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, FL, for Crew Dragon Demo-2 mission slated for launch May 27, 2020 As seen from the Indian River lagoon, Titusville, FL. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com

The hold down static fire test is routinely carried by SpaceX to ensure all systems are ready with the rocket and serves also as a practice wet dress countdown – taking on even vastly more significance considering the precious cargo of 2 humans.

SpaceX conducts successful static fire test of Falcon 9 first stage engines at 4:33 p.m. EDT on May 22 with exhaust spewing out from the flame trench at Launch Complex-39A on NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, FL, for Crew Dragon Demo-2 mission slated for launch May 27, 2020 As seen from the Indian River lagoon, Titusville, FL. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com

I watched the Friday afternoon engine test from nearby in Titusville, Fl from about a dozen miles away across the Indian River lagoon and observed the exhaust plume and vapor cloud emanating from the bottom of the booster.

Enjoy my eyewitness photos of the static fire test for Space UpClose under beautiful weather conditions with mostly sunny skies and minimal haze.

Big crowds are expected on launch day despite NASA asking the public to stay at home during the ongoing coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic crisis. The local sheriff in Brevard County has said folks are welcome to attend but must follow CDC guidelines and traffic alerts and requirements.

In case of any delays for weather or technical reasons the next launch opportunity is 3 days later on Saturday, May 30 at 3:22 p.m. EDT (1922 GMT) and Sunday May 31 at 3 p.m. EDT (1900 GMT).

“Demo-2 will be SpaceX’s final test flight to validate its crew transportation system, including the Crew Dragon, Falcon 9, launch pad and operations capabilities. During the mission, the crew and SpaceX mission controllers will verify the performance of the spacecraft’s environmental control system, displays and control system, maneuvering thrusters, autonomous docking capability, and more.”

“The length of the Demo-2 mission will be determined after Behnken and Hurley arrive at the station, depending on the readiness of the next commercial crew launch.”

The next key event is the Launch Readiness Review on Monday involving a final check of the rocket and spacecraft by NASA and SpaceX.

Here’s my view of the Crew Dragon used in the In Flight Abort (IFA) Test in Jan 2020.

Up Close view of SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule bolted atop Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon capsule stand poised for liftoff at Launch Complex-39A on NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, FL, for Crew Dragon In-Flight Abort (IFA) test. As seen from pad 39A after sea weather scrub. IFA launch reset to Jan. 19, 2020. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com

Watch Ken’s continuing reports about Commercial Crew and Artemis and onsite for live reporting of upcoming and recent SpaceX and ULA launches including Demo-2, Starlink, X-37B, Solar Orbiter, Mars 2020 and more 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.
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Ken’s photos are for sale and he is available for lectures and outreach events

Ken’s upcoming outreach events:

May 25/26: 7 PM, Quality Inn Kennedy Space Center, Titusville, FL. “SpaceX Demo-2 and ULA Atlas V launches” Free. In hotel lobby. Photos for sale

 

Ken Kremer

Ken Kremer

Watch for Ken’s continuing onsite coverage of NASA, SpaceX, ULA, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and more space and mission reports direct from Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida and Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Stay tuned here for Ken's continuing Earth and Planetary science and human spaceflight news. 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.

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