SpaceX will launch astronauts for the very first time on Wednesday next week. The Demo-2 mission, is a test flight meant to certify the Crew Dragon spacecraft is safe and reliable to transport humans to the International Space Station (ISS). A Falcon 9 rocket will lift off at around 4:32 p.m. EDT. on May 27, carrying NASA Astronauts Robert “Bob” Behnken and Douglas “Doug” Hurley aboard Dragon on a voyage to the orbiting laboratory. The flight is expected to bring back the pride America felt when astronauts launched from the United States. The agency has been launching astronauts to the space station on Russian spacecraft since 2011.
Today, May 23, Astronauts Behnken and Hurley participated in a Launch Dress Rehearsal for the vital SpaceX mission. They practiced all launch day operations wearing their SpaceX-made spacesuits at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. They departed their crew quarters at Kennedy’s Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building at around 1:30 p.m. EDT. The pair rode aboard a Tesla Model X car to Launch Pad 39A. The Tesla’s license plate read – “ISSBND” — which is an abbreviation of the astronauts’ destination, International Space Station bound, or ISS BND for short.
After a 20-minute drive to the launch pad, the astronauts rode an elevator to the 265-foot-level tower on Launch Pad 39A, where the Falcon 9 rocket stands vertically. Behnken and Hurley walked across the 50-foot crew access arm, which is a hallway that connects to the spacecraft atop the massive rocket. There, crews helped the astronauts get inside Crew Dragon, and strapped them to their seats.
According to NASA, they will review everything planned and check the spacecraft ahead of flight. This ensures all mission-essential personnel knows exactly what they are tasked to do on launch day, and also what to do if something goes wrong before the mission. They will simulate a real countdown to practice, so, as you read this, the Launch Dress Rehearsal is still taking place. The rehearsal countdown is expected to halt an hour prior to the simulated launch time of 4:33:33 p.m. EDT. Then, the astronauts will get out of the spacecraft about 30 minutes after the simulated rehearsal is over. Later today, teams and astronauts will discuss their rehearsal during a briefing, it is the final time everyone will practice launch operations ahead of the actual launch on Wednesday.
SpaceX already conducted a static-fire test of the Falcon 9 rocket on Thursday. During the static-firing, it was fueled with rocket-grade kerosene and cryogenic liquid oxygen propellants. The rocket’s nine Merlin engines were ignited for a few seconds while it was grounded to the launch pad. The successful test ensures the rocket is ready to take flight. Astronaut Behnken shared his excitement:
“Exciting couple of days here at NASA Kennedy! Crew arrival in Florida was awesome, seeing our vehicle roll to 39A was epic, and watching our SpaceX Falcon9 1st stage fire one more time before our mission still has a smile on my face!”
A weather forecast was issued early today by the United States Space Force’s 45th Weather Squadron. It predicts a 40% chance of favorable conditions for launch day on May 27th. “We are four days away from the launch of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon to the Space Station with Astronauts Behnken and Hurley onboard, marking the return of human spaceflight to U.S. soil. Weather is currently 40% go for #LaunchAmerica on May 27 at 4:33 pm ET.” the agency announced via Twitter. If the launch is delayed due to weather conditions, there is a couple of back up launch dates scheduled for May 30 at 3:22 p.m. EDT. and May 31 at 3:00 p.m. EDT.