10 Things To Know about the NASA / SpaceX Crew Demo 2 Mission

Crew Dragon Demo-2 (or DM-2) will be the first crewed test flight of the Crew Dragon spacecraft, scheduled for launch to the International Space Station on 27 May 2020 at 20:33:33 UTC (4:33:33 PM EDT). Demo-2 will be the first crewed orbital spaceflight launched from the United States since the final Space Shuttle mission, STS-135, in 2011, on which Douglas G. Hurley was the pilot. Hurley will be spacecraft commander on Crew Dragon Demo-2, joined by Robert L. Behnken as joint operations commander. Crew Dragon Demo-2 will also be the first two-person orbital spaceflight launched from the United States since STS-4 in 1982.

Crew

Douglas Hurley and Robert Behnken were announced as the primary crew on 3 August 2018. Both astronauts are veterans of the Space Shuttle program, and the Demo-2 flight will be the third trip to space for each of them.

PositionAstronaut
Spacecraft commander Douglas G. HurleyNASA
Third spaceflight
Joint operations commander Robert L. BehnkenNASA
Third spaceflight
PositionAstronaut
Spacecraft commander Michael S. HopkinsNASA
Second spaceflight
Joint operations commander Victor J. GloverNASA
First spaceflight

Timeline

The Crew Dragon Demo-2 mission was originally planned for launch in July 2019 as part of the Commercial Crew Development contract with a crew of two on a 14-day test mission to the International Space Station (ISS).

On 20 April 2019, the Crew Dragon capsule from the Crew Dragon Demo-1 mission was destroyed during static fire testing of its SuperDraco thrusters, ahead of its planned use for the in-flight abort test. SpaceX traced the cause of the anomaly to a component that leaked oxidizer into the high pressure helium lines, which then solidified and damaged a valve.

On 19 January 2020, a Crew Dragon capsule successfully completed an in-flight abort test.

On 9 April 2020, the NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said he is “fairly confident” that astronauts can fly to the International Space Station aboard SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spaceship at the end of May or in early June 2020, pending final parachute tests, data reviews and a training schedule that can escape major impacts from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

On 17 April 2020, NASA and SpaceX announced the launch date as 27 May 2020. The arrival of the Crew Dragon will raise the station’s crew size from three to five. Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley will perform duties and conduct experiments as crew onboard the International Space Station for several months, until the next Crew Dragon launch. Hurley and Behnken are expected to live and work aboard the space station for two or three months, and then return to Earth for a splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean east of Cape Canaveral.

On 23 April 2020, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine urged space enthusiasts not to travel to the Kennedy Space Center to view the launch, and asked people to instead watch the launch on television or online. Bridenstine explained that maintenance crew are working in cohesive shifts, to mitigate workers’ exposure to coronavirus.

Crew Dragon Demo-2 will mark the first crewed US spaceflight mission not to include the presence of the public at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. However, selected members of the press will be allowed to witness the launch.

On 1 May 2020, SpaceX successfully demonstrated the Mark 3 parachute system, a critical milestone for the mission approval.

In an effort to engage the public, notably the Class of 2020 who weren’t able to attend their graduations due to the COVID-19 pandemic, both NASA and SpaceX invited students and graduates to submit their photos to be flown to the ISS.

Mission

The Crew Dragon Demo-2 mission is intended to finish the validation process for human-rated spaceflight operations on SpaceX hardware. If successful, the demonstration flight will allow for human rated certification of the Crew Dragon spacecraft, and the Falcon 9 rocket, the crew transportation system, launch pad, and SpaceX’s capabilities. The mission includes astronaut testing of Crew Dragon capabilities on orbit.

The Falcon 9 rocket will launch from Kennedy Space Center launch pad LC-39A on May 27, and dock to pressurized mating adapter PMA-2 on the Harmony module of the ISS on May 28. Hurley and Behnken will join the Expedition 63 mission for several months.

Docking and undocking operation will be autonomously controlled by the Crew Dragon spacecraft, but monitored by the flight crew in case manual intervention becomes necessary.

The first stage booster will attempt to land autonomously on the floating barge Of Course I Still Love You, which will be prepositioned in the Atlantic Ocean.

Upon returning to Earth, the Crew Dragon capsule will parachute into the Atlantic Ocean, where it will be recovered by the Go Navigator recovery vessel.

Insignia and livery

NASA “worm” logotype used from 1975 until 1992.

The mission insignia was designed by Andrew Nyberg, an artist from Brainerd, Minnesota who is a nephew of spacecraft commander Hurley. The insignia features the logos of the Commercial Crew Program, Falcon 9, Crew Dragon, and the red chevron of NASA’s “meatball” insignia. Also depicted are the American flag and a symbol of the ISS. The words NASASpaceXHurley and Behnken are printed around the border, along with the words “First crewed flight” and DM-2. The insignia outline is in the shape of the Crew Dragon capsule.

The Falcon 9 booster will display NASA’s iconic worm logo. This is the first time the logo has been officially used since it was retired in 1992.