How to Watch When SpaceX Crew Dragon Launches

NASA           NASA astronauts Douglas Hurley and Robert Behnken

NASA NASA astronauts Douglas Hurley and Robert Behnken

Originally scheduled to finish on Thursday, the FRR spanned a total of two days, which isn't completely unexpected as this is the first time NASA has launched its astronauts on a vehicle provided by a private company.

It has been nearly a decade since NASA last launched astronauts into space from U.S. soil, but now using a SpaceX rocket, it will send a two-person crew to the International Space Station (ISS).

The Demo-2 mission is proceeding despite the sudden resignation of Doug Loverro, NASA's associate administrator for human exploration and operations. This included the STS-127 flight in July of 2009 and the final Space Shuttle mission (STS-135), which took place in July of 2011.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine held a virtual pre-launch news conference Tuesday, speaking to a almost empty room at the press site that normally would be packed with reporters.

Ahead of this much-anticipated launch, SpaceX tested an uncrewed version of Crew Dragon on 19 January. Initially meant to last just one day, the FRR began on Thursday (May 21st), extended to the end of the business day, and continued into Friday (May 22nd). A Tesla Model X with NASA livery transported the pair to Launch Complex 39A, where they tested the communications system and ran through the go/no-go protocols among other final preparations.

Following the conclusion of both the FRR and LRR, NASA held socially-distant press conferences to inform the public of certain milestones that were accomplished during the Review. "There were conversations that were had that were very important to be had". He also stated that there are still "a lot of checks to do, but the (flight) readiness review was good and we are a go".

Bridenstine revealed the planned launch date of the first operational Crew Dragon flight during a preflight conference for the maiden crewed launch of the spacecraft at the Kennedy Space Center this morning.

For Demo-2, the successful FRR is a crucial pathfinding step to confirming launch, however not the last. As he outlined the various weather systems and fronts which are collectively contributing to the now 40% chance that there would be a violation against the launch weather criteria, his choice of words to summarize the situation seemed fitting, given that he was talking about a mission featuring two astronauts, named Bob (Behnken) and Doug (Hurley). Reed went on to say that "there'll be constant vigilance and watching of the data and observations as we go through the mission".

NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley are scheduled to launch at 6:33 am AEST on May 28, from Kennedy Space Centre in Florida.

Once docked with the ISS - joining the Expedition 63 crew aboard the space station - the crew will perform tests on Crew Dragon to see how it performs in orbit.

Behnken will be the joint operations commander for the Demo-2 mission, charged with overseeing the rendezvous, docking, and undocking maneuvers. "We will have a final human rating certification review after Demo-2, before the Crew-1 mission, just to certify the relatively small set of design changes between the Demo-2 system and the Crew-1 system, and at that point, we will deem the system human rating certified".

The Crew Dragon astronauts are expected to remain aboard the station for at least six weeks and possibly as long as four months, helping Cassidy with a full slate of research and, possibly, with one or more spacewalks to install new solar array batteries and complete installation of a European experiment platform. Upon conclusion, the only thing left to do will be to load the astronauts and launch to the International Space Station, making history for SpaceX once again.

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