SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket will launch NASA Astronauts aboard the Crew Dragon spacecraft on a voyage to the International Space Station on May 27th. The rocket will lift off at 4:32 p.m. EDT. from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The mission, known as Demo-2, will mark the first crewed rocket flight launched from American soil in nearly a decade. “The launch of the crew is something that we’ve been working towards for 17 years,” the founder of SpaceX Elon Musk said earlier this year, “This is the reason SpaceX was created, we’re incredibly honored to partner with NASA and to make this happen.”
On Wednesday, May 20th, NASA Astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley arrived at the Kennedy Space Center Florida to review launch day operations and be part of a week-long briefings with SpaceX and NASA officials, that will be broadcasted live via NASA TV (video below). NASA Administrator said earlier today, as the astronauts arrived – “We are on the cusp of launching American astronauts on American rockets from American soil yet again.” The United States has not launched manned missions to the orbiting laboratory ever since the Space Shuttle fleet was retired in 2011.
“It’s these gentleman that are going to have the opportunity to pioneer once more for the United States of America in what is this new era in human spaceflight.”
Today, Bridenstine shared a couple of photographs of the SpaceX-made spacesuit Behnken and Hurley will wear during the historic flight. “The Worm Is Back and it’s on the SpaceX spacesuits that Astronaut Douglas Hurley and Astronaut Robert Behnken will be wearing next week for our Demo-2 mission!” he wrote via Twitter. The ‘worm’ is NASA’s retro logo that was used when America launched human missions to space.
SpaceX designed and made these form-fitting pressure suits, with comfort in mind. The sleek black and white suit is maneuverable unlike NASA’s Space Shuttle’s bulky orange suits. Each SpaceX suit is tailored and customized for the astronaut wearing it. The spacesuits are very stylish with the logos of both NASA and SpaceX, denoting the partnership. Astronauts have worked closely with the company over the past years by providing critical feedback on the ship designs and, of course, the spacesuits. They have trained in these spacesuits too. The suit is meant to provide a pressurized environment for all crew members aboard the Dragon capsule, in case of an emergency such as cabin depressurization.
SpaceX’s slip-on, one-piece suit features a single connection point between the suit and vehicle, a communications system to communicate with each other and the craft, as well as hearing protection which will protect astronaut’s ears during the rocket launch ascent and spacecraft reentry. It also has two internal layers, a flame-resistant outer layer and an inner cooling system. The space helmet is 3D printed with solar radiation protection. The boots feature heel sliders which help to secure feet to footrests. The gloves are flexible and specifically designed to be compatible with touchscreen devices. Crew Dragon’s control and pilot system consists of a trio of touchscreen displays.
These slim suits won’t be used for spacewalks though. The suits are designed to protect astronauts from any potential loss of cabin pressure during flight, which is essential so that bodily functions are not harmed by a drop in pressure. A rapid loss of air and pressure or exposure to the vacuum of space will cause gases inside a person’s organs which expands tissues and makes bubbling blood, even boiling eyeballs. If this happens, it will make a person pass out in about 15 seconds. Which isn’t enough time to rescue someone nor become aware of this dangerous situation to fix it. That’s why space suits have to be worn inside the craft to ensure astronauts have a stable ‘sealed-off’ life support system, in the unlikely event Crew Dragon malfunctions. So, a spacesuit will regulate air pressure, provide oxygen, and stabilize temperature as well as deflect cosmic radiation, all while allowing for movement.
The astronauts will soon perform a practice suit-up along SpaceX suit designer engineers and supporting NASA personnel. A crew will help them buckle into their seats during launch day and go through a leak check procedure.
Tomorrow there will be a conference. And on May 22nd, a virtual news briefing, where Behnken and Hurley will be interviewed by media remotely and talk about their thoughts on the historic mission that will change their lives and pave the way towards launching humans more frequently to space from American soil. On May 23rd, the pair will have a launch day dress rehearsal. They will go over everything they will do during launch day. Starting with wearing their spacesuits. Then, they will ride a Tesla Model X from the Operations and Checkout Building at Kennedy to launch pad 39A, where they will ride the elevator of the launch pad’s tower to will walk across SpaceX’s Crew Access Arm, which is a hallway leading to a white room, where a team will help the astronauts get onboard the spacecraft to simulate a countdown. This pre-flight preparation allows all supporting personnel to be ready and know exactly what to do during this vital mission. All events will be broadcasted live via NASA TV, see schedule below.