May 26, 2020
By Nick Eakes
There is a shining example of hope, perseverance, and discovery on the horizon from the partnership of NASA and SpaceX.
NASA’s Commercial Crew Program planned to launch two astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) on the afternoon of Wednesday, May 27, 2020, from the John F. Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Unfortunately, due to a last minute change in the Florida weather conditions, the launch has been moved to Saturday, May 30 at 3:22 p.m. The launch marks an important milestone as it provides a critical test of the NASA-SpaceX relationship: the first time human beings will hitch a ride to space on SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket.
This mission, named Demo-2, also marks the first crewed expedition to the ISS from United States soil since the Space Shuttle era ended in 2011. In the intervening nine years, astronauts have made trips to the ISS from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, managed by Russia’s space program: Roscosmos. Demo-2 will serve as the final flight test before NASA certifies the SpaceX Crew Dragon Capsule for future missions with longer durations.
#LaunchAmerica is trending across social media and folks are getting excited about a return to crewed rocket launches closer to home. NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine says, “It’s going to uplift America. We need that moment right now in American history.”
Today, the Demo-2 flight crew are making their final preparations for a trip to the ISS, Earth’s own orbiting science laboratory. Demo-2 astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley are no strangers to spaceflight, or even launching from United States soil. Between them, Behnken and Hurley flew on four Space Shuttle missions between 2008 and 2011. In fact, Col. Hurley was part of the STS-135 mission that returned to Earth on July 4th, 2011 – the final flight of the Space Shuttle program.
Atop Falcon 9, the Crew Dragon capsule will carry the Demo-2 crew on a journey into space at speeds of up to 17,000 mph. Once Crew Dragon reaches approximately 250 miles above the Earth’s surface, it will get in position to autonomously dock to the ISS and Behnken and Hurley will join the current Expedition 63 crew members onboard.
The total duration of the Demo-2 mission once onboard the ISS is still unclear. Originally, NASA planned for a very short duration, a few days to weeks, but now estimates the Demo-2 crew may be onboard up to four months. The astronauts will have plenty of science projects to keep them busy and will return home when orbital conditions are optimal. The next crewed launch to the ISS is currently slated for August 2020.
A successful Demo-2 mission will pave the way for future launches to the ISS and beyond. NASA views partnerships and contracts with aerospace companies like SpaceX and Boeing as essential to future missions, including those that will eventually take astronauts back to our Moon and onward to Mars. The newly named Mars Perseverance Rover and NASA Artemis missions are just two of our exciting next steps as we reach out and journey further into the cosmos.
Here’s what you need to know about the second launch attempt (weather permitting:)
Launch Time: Saturday, 5/30/20 ~3:22 p.m. Eastern time
ISS Dock Time: Sunday, 5/31/20 AM
Capsule: SpaceX Crew Dragon
Vehicle: SpaceX Falcon 9
Launch Site: NASA Kennedy Space Center, Launch Complex 39-A
Where to watch: https://www.nasa.gov/nasalive – coverage begins on 5/30/20 at 12 p.m. Eastern time
To learn more about Morehead’s role in training NASA astronauts, and much more, please visit us at www.moreheadplanetarium.org and join us for virtual Morehead At Home sessions every Tuesday and Thursday at 10:00 a.m.