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Astronauts to Lift Off in Final Test of SpaceX Human Spaceflight System

Wednesday is set to be a historic day for space travel – as long as the weather cooperates. NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley are scheduled to launch from Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy Space Center as part of SpaceX’s final test flight for future manned missions through NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. This will be the first manned spaceflight since the conclusion of the space shuttle program nearly a decade ago. 

The astronauts will stay at the International Space Station during the Demo-2 mission. The purpose is to validate SpaceX’s crew transportation system, which includes the launch pad, rocket, spacecraft and operational capabilities. 

Demo-2 Mission Details

At launch time, Behnken and Hurley will accelerate to approximately 17,000 mph aboard the Crew Dragon spacecraft before entering an intercept course with the International Space Station. Once they verify with mission control that the spacecraft is performing properly, it will take about 24 hours to be in position to rendezvous and dock with the space station. While Crew Dragon is designed to perform these tasks autonomously, the astronauts on board as well as the astronauts currently staying at the space station will monitor the process and take control if needed. 

Behnken and Hurley will be part of the Expedition 63 crew during their time on the space station. They will perform tests on Crew Dragon, conduct research and work with the space station crew on other tasks during this final step before NASA’s Commercial Crew Program certifies Crew Dragon for long-duration missions. This mission could last anywhere from six weeks to 16 weeks, a duration that will be determined once the astronauts arrive. 

Crew Dragon’s certification is the first step in continuing exploration of the moon and Mars, which will begin with the SpaceX Artemis program. This program is expected to see the first woman and the next man land on the moon in 2024. 

Meet Bob Behnken

As the joint operations commander of this mission, Behnken is responsible for rendezvous, docking and undocking the spacecraft, and Demo-2 mission activities while docked to the space station. He completed two space shuttle flights during his time as a NASA astronaut in which he flew STS-123 in March 2008 and completed three spacewalks during each  mission on STS-130 in February 2010. Behnken earned his bachelor’s degree in physics and mechanical engineering from Washington University and his master’s and doctorate in mechanical engineering from California Institute of Technology. He was previously a flight test engineer with the U.S. Air Force.

Meet Doug Hurley

Hurley will be responsible for activities such as launch, landing and recovery as the spacecraft commander for the Demo-2 mission. As a NASA astronaut in 2000, he served as pilot and lead robotics operator for two spaceflights: STS-127 in July 2009 and STS-135, the final space shuttle mission, in July 2011. Hurley earned his bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Tulane University, and he graduated from the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School in Maryland. He was previously a fighter pilot and test pilot in the U.S. Marine Corps. 

What to Expect

Step outside at 4:33 p.m. EDT on May 27 to catch a glimpse of Crew Dragon as it lifts off from Kennedy Space Center on a Falcon 9 rocket. You can also view a live webcast of the launch on the SpaceX website as well as NASA’s Facebook page, with coverage beginning four hours before liftoff. 

Should weather delay this much-anticipated launch, backup opportunities will be available at 3:22 p.m. EDT on May 30 and at 3 p.m. on May 31.

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Written by Lyndsay Fogarty

Lyndsay Fogarty has had many roles at Central Florida Lifestyle, working her way from intern to contributing writer to managing editor. She is a graduate of the University of Central Florida’s Nicholson School of Communication where she earned her degree in journalism. Along the way, she has learned that teamwork and dedication to your craft will get you far, and a positive outlook on the present will get you even farther.

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