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Demo-2: How SpaceX launches NASA astronauts to the ISS on May 27



The impression of this artist shows how Crew Dragon docks to the ISS.


SpaceX

NASA's NASA Space Shuttle launched from Florida to the International Space Station in July 2011, the last time humans traveled from space to space. The long drought should soon be over as SpaceX is preparing to send two NASA astronauts to the ISS in a purpose-built Crew Dragon capsule. This mission has passed a critical readiness review and is scheduled to launch on Wednesday, May 27.

The mission known as Demo-2 had its share of setbacks . After the security checks of the capsule have been completed NASA and SpaceX are finally ready to fly. We have summarized everything you need to know about the historic start and when and where you can get involved.

Demo-2: The Basics

Demo-2 is part of NASA's commercial crew program in which two commercial space companies, SpaceX and Boeing, are involved, which build and launch crew capsules which astronauts are to be transported to and from the ISS.

SpaceX has a long history of cargo and payload launches, but this will be the first time companies have sent people off this rock.


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SpaceX is said to launch its first astronauts into space



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When: The start is scheduled for Wednesday, May 27th at 1:33 p.m. PT / 4: 33 p.m. ET.

If the weather does not work together or is disrupted by another factor, SpaceX has reserved start times for backups at 12:22. PT / 3: 10 p.m. ET on Saturday, May 30 or at 12 p.m. PT / 3 p.m. ET on Sunday, May 31st.

Where: The Falcon 9 rocket and the Crew Dragon capsule are fired from launch complex 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Apollo and space shuttle missions were previously on the historic launch pad.

Why: NASA's Commercial Crew Program aims to end the US's dependence on Russian spacecraft for the transfer of astronauts to the ISS. NASA has been buying Soyuz capsule seats since the end of the shuttle program.

This is also part of a broader NASA commercial partnership effort. "By encouraging industry to provide human transportation services to and from near-Earth orbit, NASA can expand its focus on the construction of spacecraft and missiles for space missions," said the space agency.

The Crew Dragon capsule arrived at the launch site in February 2020 for final preparation.


NASA

The spaceship: The SpaceX Crew Dragon is the human transport version of the Dragon 2 capsule that was used to transport cargo to the ISS. While only two astronauts will be on board at the end of May, the capsule can be configured for up to seven passengers.

The rocket: SpaceX's proven Falcon 9 rocket will accompany Crew Dragon through the launch. The legendary "worm" logo from NASA is emblazoned on the side of the rocket . Falcon 9s have successfully launched dozens of SpaceX missions.

The Falcon 9 booster is reusable and will attempt to land on a SpaceX drone ship based in the Atlantic.

The crew: NASA The astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley were assigned to the Crew Dragon in 2018. Both were on different shuttle missions in space, with Hurley flying on the last flight of the space shuttle Atlantis in 2011. They will wear spacesuits Designed by SpaceX .

The goal: If SpaceX passes the demo during Demo-2, NASA Crew Dragon will certify for regular return flights to the ISS. The space agency is already looking at this result and has deployed astronauts for Crew Dragon's first mission which could start before the end of the year if all goes well.

NASA announced on May 22 that Demo-2 had passed its flight readiness test and was released to go.

How to Follow the Demo 2 Mission Live

NASA is Streaming – Provide reporting of pre-launch, launch and ISS docking activities on NASA TV. The start time depends on the good weather conditions both at the start location and in the sea, where the team capsule would spray off during the start in an emergency.

Start coverage begins on May 27 at 9:15 a.m. (local time) of the scheduled 1:33 p.m. PT start time. NASA TV provides continuous coverage from launch to dock. Crew Dragon's arrival on the ISS is scheduled for Thursday, May 28, 8:29 a.m. (local time). SpaceX will also provide a launch webcast.

SpaceX founder Elon Musk tweeted on May 22nd that he would be watching the event from Florida Mission Control. Musk described the mission as as "the culmination of a really incredible amount of work by SpaceX and NASA engineers, with the support of all countries of the International Space Station".

Discovery and Science Channel offers a different view of the process with its Space Launch Live event from 11:00 PT. The lineup includes singer Katy Perry and the YouTube star, former NASA engineer Mark Rober and former and current NASA astronauts. "Our live special offers both incredible launch access and expertise from SpaceX founder and chief engineer Elon Musk and other leading aerospace professionals," Discovery said in a May 20 release.

Making history

NASA is watching The SpaceX Demo 2 mission as the beginning of a "new era in human space travel".

NASA awarded the original Commercial Crew Program contracts to SpaceX and Boeing in 2014 to launch 2017 astronauts. Delays in the development of spacecraft are common, and both SpaceX and Boeing had problems with hiccups. Boeing is still working on a number of technical problems that occurred during a test flight of its Starliner vehicle in late 2019.

SpaceX however, successfully completed the demo-1 round trip without screws to the ISS in early 2019 and a critical demolition test during the flight at the beginning of the year which set the stage for Demo-2 is preparing. It's called Demo-2 because it's technically still a "demonstration" rather than a full-fledged space mission. It marks the final test for SpaceX and its Crew Dragon capsule and enables Elon Musk's space company to achieve human certification of its spacecraft.

Demo-2 will also be the first time that a two-man crew has launched from the United States since the Space Shuttle Columbia left for space in 1982 on the program's fourth mission.

Meet the astronauts

Behnken and Hurley entered preflight quarantine on May 13th. Pre-launch quarantines were standard practice prior to the coronavirus pandemic, but NASA will add some additional steps to the process. "As a precaution, Hurley and Behnken, as well as those who are in direct, close contact with the crew, are tested twice for the virus," NASA said in a statement in May.

NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley will be the first human passengers on SpaceX when they launch the mission.


NASA

Bob Behnken: NASA selected Behnken, an experienced Air Force pilot, as an astronaut in 2000. The last time he visited space in 2010 was on a shuttle mission. He has spent 708 hours in space, 37 of which were recorded through spacewalks.

Behnken tweeted on May 12 that he had to get his young son's approval before the start.

Doug Hurley: Hurley, a retired navy, was also selected as an astronaut in 2000 As a veteran of two space missions, he was last in orbit on NASA's last shuttle mission in 2011. This adds some poetry to Hurley's assignment to Demo-2. He was one of the last astronauts to launch from US soil and will be one of the first to do so again.

Hurley shared the drawing of his own son from Crew Dragon in late April.

NASA has not yet decided exactly how long Behnken and Hurley will remain on the ISS. "In addition to carrying out research and other tasks with the crew of the space station, you will also perform tests on Crew Dragon," said NASA. The astronauts return with Crew Dragon and splash around in the Atlantic, where they are greeted by a SpaceX recovery ship.

May 27 marks an important milestone in space history. It's not just about the patriotic overtones of launching American astronauts from American soil with an American rocket.

SpaceX and NASA will catch a thread in human space flight and fill the gap created by the decommissioning of the Space Shuttles. We're pretty good at sending robot researchers to distant locations in the solar system, but stakes are always higher when it comes to human lives. The world will watch.


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