Demo-2 Docks at Space Station, Expedition 63 Expands to Five Crew

Dragon Endeavour comes in for docking at 10:16 a.m. EDT Sunday. Photo Credit: NASA

Riding aboard a spacecraft they christened “Endeavour”—in honor of the now-retired shuttle which kicked off both of their astronauting careers more than a decade ago—NASA veterans Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken completed another milestone earlier today (Sunday, 31 May), with a smooth link-up at the International Space Station (ISS) at 10:16 a.m. EDT. In doing so, the Demo-2 flight of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon became the 99th human-carrying space vehicle to visit the multi-national orbital complex since STS-88 (another Endeavour) in December 1998.

Thirty-seven U.S. shuttle missions, 61 Russian Soyuz flights, the most recent of which launched in April, and now Demo-2, have transported 240 men and women to the station from 19 sovereign nations. But for the first time on Demo-2, they were launched not by a government, but by a commercial entity.



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Demo-2 Flies, Ends 9-Year U.S. Crew Launch Hiatus

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launching America’s first crew back to space from US soil on the Crew Dragon May 30, 2020 from Kennedy Space Center pad 39A on the Demo-2 flight test to and from the International Space Station under NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. Photo: Mike Killian / AmericaSpace.com

The wait is over. After nine long years, an agonizing 3,236 days, a hiatus in America’s capacity to launch its own astronauts, aboard its own spacecraft, atop its own rockets, and from its own soil, came to a triumphant end at 3:22:45 p.m. EDT Saturday, 30 May, when the Demo-2 Crew Dragon finally took flight from historic Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida.

Carrying the dreams of a nation, to say nothing of the men and women who vacated KSC before them, NASA veterans Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken became the first humans to ride a Falcon 9 into space. Within nine minutes, Crew Dragon—which Hurley later named “Endeavour”—had achieved a smooth orbit, preparatory to Sunday’s planned docking with the International Space Station (ISS).



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Woodpecker Attack: Remembering STS-70, 25 Years On

Startling the birds, Discovery spears from Pad 39B on 13 July 1995. Six weeks earlier, the antics of a pesky Northern Flicker woodpecker had caused an extensive launch delay for STS-70 and extensive embarrassment for NASA. Photo Credit: NASA

Over its 30-year career, many things attacked the Space Shuttle, from lawmakers keen to cut NASA’s budget to anti-nuclear protesters anxious not to launch the plutonium-fueled Galileo mission to Jupiter and from poor weather to dropped tools and near-catastrophic technical maladies. That is not to forget, of course, two appalling tragedies which claimed not only shuttles Challenger and Columbia, but also their heroic final crews, and several other missions which came within a hair’s breadth of disaster.

But of all the lethal things which bedeviled the shuttles over those three decades, none could possibly be as strange as the one which hit fleet leader Discovery 25 years ago. In fact, when he learned that a woodpecker had just scrubbed his mission, veteran astronaut Don Thomas thought someone was playing a prank on him. They couldn’t be serious. Could they?



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Weather Delays Demo-2, Next Attempt NET Saturday

Demo-2 astronauts Doug Hurley (foreground) and Bob Behnken ran through a full-up Launch Day, but the Florida weather ultimately thwarted Wednesday’s launch attempt. Photo Credit: NASA/SpaceX

It’s been more than 3,000 days—almost nine full years—since a human-capable orbiting spaceship built and launched in the United States last swept back to Earth to return a crew of Americans home safely to their families. The landing of Atlantis on 21 July 2011 to wrap up STS-135, the final voyage of the Space Shuttle Program, marked the end of an era, but few observers seriously expected that almost a decade would pass before a replacement vehicle would again return U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS).

The long wait was hoped to end at 4:33 p.m. EDT on Wednesday, 27 May, when Demo-2 astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken were due to roar aloft from historic Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida, to take SpaceX’s Crew Dragon for an orbital spin and potentially a few months at the sprawling multi-national complex. But running through an exceptionally smooth Launch Day, the attempt was scrubbed at T-16 minutes as the intractable Florida weather refused to co-operate. The next attempt is scheduled for 3:22 p.m. EDT Saturday, 30 May.



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T-1 Day: NASA, SpaceX Ready to Bring Human Spaceflight Back to America (Part 2)

Bob Behnken (left) previously served as chief of NASA’s astronaut corps, whilst Doug Hurley piloted the final Space Shuttle mission, STS-135. Photo Credit: Mike Killian / AmericaSpace.com

The International Space Station (ISS) is primed to receive its sixth visiting vehicle of 2020 in the coming days, although of a kind unseen in almost a decade and of a nature never seen before. Retired Marine Corps Col. Doug Hurley, who piloted the final voyage of the Space Shuttle, and former chief astronaut and Air Force Col. Bob Behnken, a former NASA chief astronaut, will launch from historic Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida at 4:33 p.m. EDT Wednesday, 27 May.

Flying atop a Falcon 9 booster, theirs will be the first mission by U.S. astronauts, aboard a U.S. spacecraft and from U.S. soil since the end of the shuttle program in July 2011, as well as being the first-ever time that humans will have traveled into low-Earth orbit in a wholly commercial vehicle.



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NASA, SpaceX Ready to Return Human Spaceflight to American Soil (Part 1)

Doug Hurley (foreground) will serve as mission commander for the Demo-2 flight, with Bob Behnken (background) as joint operations commander. Photo Credit: SpaceX

For the first time in nearly nine years, a Prime Crew is in the final days of waiting at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida, ahead of their scheduled liftoff from historic Pad 39A at 4:33 p.m. EDT Wednesday, 27 May. Retired Marine Corps Col. Doug Hurley, who piloted the final voyage of the shuttle program, and Air Force Col. Bob Behnken, a former chief of NASA’s astronaut corps, will fly SpaceX’s Crew Dragon for the long-awaited Demo-2 mission to the International Space Station (ISS).

The Launch Readiness Review (LRR) wrapped up today, clearing a final significant milestone before Wednesday’s liftoff. “We’re burning down the final paper. All the teams are a go, and we’re continuing to progress toward our mission,” said Kathy Lueders, manager, NASA Commercial Crew Program. “I’m very proud of the team. We are continuing to be vigilant and careful, and make sure we do this right.”



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Meet the Crew: Hurley, Behnken Primed for Historic U.S. Return to Space

Doug Hurley (left), mission commander of Demo-2, piloted the final Space Shuttle flight, whilst Bob Behnken, joint operations commander, is a veteran spacewalker and former chief of NASA’s astronaut corps. Photo Credit: NASA

Alan Shepard, Virgil “Gus” Grissom, Wally Schirra, Donn Eisele, Walt Cunningham, Bob Crippen and John Young; just a handful of many heroes in the annals of U.S. human spaceflight over almost six decades. But these seven men occupy a unique niche in that they were first to take a brand-new spacecraft, ride it from the launch pad to low-Earth orbit and check it out for even more complex missions ahead. Shepard became America’s first man in space when he took a 15-minute suborbital “hop” aboard the Freedom 7 Mercury capsule in May 1961; Grissom and Young piloted Gemini 3 in March 1965; Schirra, Eisele and Cunningham flew Apollo 7 in October 1968; and Young and Crippen undertook arguably the most dangerous experimental test flight in history when they buckled into Columbia for the shuttle’s first-ever launch off the planet in April 1981.

And on Wednesday afternoon, those seven names will be joined by two more, as retired Marine Corps colonel Doug Hurley, the man who piloted the final Space Shuttle, and Air Force colonel and former chief of the astronaut office Bob Behnken become the first humans to ride a commercial vehicle into low-Earth orbit.



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NASA's Upcoming WFIRST Space Telescope Renamed in Honor of Nancy Grace Roman

Artist’s conception of the Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope (WFIRST). Image Credit: NASA

NASA’s upcoming next-generation space telescope, the Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST), now has a brand new name: the Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope (or just the Roman Space Telescope for short). It is named in honor of Nancy Grace Roman, NASA’s first chief astronomer.



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Astronauts Arrive in Florida for Launch Next Week with SpaceX on Demo-2 Mission

From left, Demo-2 crew members Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley on May 20, 2020, at the Launch and Landing Facility runway following their arrival to the Florida spaceport. With Demo-2 they will become the first U.S. astronauts to launch aboard a U.S. spacecraft, atop a U.S. rocket, and from U.S. soil, since the end of the Space Shuttle Program in July 2011. Photo Credit: NASA

One week from today, at 4:33 p.m. EDT on Wednesday, 27 May, the man who piloted the final Space Shuttle mission and a former chief of NASA’s astronaut corps will buckle aboard a Crew Dragon and launch atop a Falcon 9 booster from historic Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida. In so doing, seasoned shuttle pilot Doug Hurley and veteran spacewalker Bob Behnken will become the first U.S. astronauts to launch aboard a U.S. spacecraft, atop a U.S. rocket, and from U.S. soil, since the end of the shuttle era in July 2011.

The duo will dock with the International Space Station (ISS) early Thursday, 28 May, about 19 hours after launch, and will join the Expedition 63 crew of Commander Chris Cassidy of NASA and Russian cosmonauts Anatoli Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner, forming a five-man increment. According to NASA, Hurley and Behnken will remain aboard the station for at least a month and perhaps as long as 119 days, the projected lifespan of the solar-cells on their Crew Dragon spacecraft.



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A New Vehicle: Remembering Atlantis' STS-101 Mission, 20 Years On

Jim Voss manipulates the Russian-built Strela (“Arrow”) cargo crane during STS-101. Photo Credit: NASA

As the United States readies itself for the launch of an entirely new space vehicle next week—the long-awaited voyage of the Demo-2 Crew Dragon, carrying NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken—today also marks 20 years since a (virtually) brand-new spacecraft roared aloft on a mission to kickstart the assembly the International Space Station (ISS) and prepare it for its first human visitors. By 19 May 2000, shuttle Atlantis had been on the ground for more than two years, undergoing over a hundred modifications, including the installation of the Multifunction Electronic Display System (MEDS) to upgrade her vintage 1970s-era flight deck instrumentation with a more modern flat-panel “glass cockpit”. It was no accident, then, that as this good-as-new ship rose from Earth at 6:11 a.m. EDT for her 21st mission, she was heralded as “a Space Shuttle for the 21st century”.



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