As its name suggests, Demo-2 will be the second time that SpaceX launches its Crew Dragon capsule at the International Space Station. But unlike Demo-1 last year, this time two astronauts will be on board.
The demo-2 should take off at 4:32 p.m. EDT from dashboard 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley will be tied up in a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule, which sits on top of a Falcon 9 rocket.
NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine told CNBC earlier this month why Demo-2 was a priority for the agency.
“We need to access the International Space Station from the United States of America. The commercial crew is the program that will get there. It is essential that our country has this capacity, ”said Bridenstine.
NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley tied up in the Crew Dragon capsule for SpaceX Demo-2.
A historic moment for SpaceX
The Demo-2 mission will be a milestone for Musk’s SpaceX in its goal of starting to fly people into space regularly. The company has launched spacecraft, satellites and cargo since its founding in 2002, but never humans – professional astronauts or otherwise.
The launch will be the last flight test of SpaceX systems before NASA certifies it for operational use. Bridenstine previously explained that the plan is to bring Behnken and Hurley back from the space station after about two or three months. About a month after their return, NASA and SpaceX will launch Crew-1, which the agency calls Crew Dragon’s “first operational flight”. Crew-1 will mark the official start of SpaceX flying astronauts on regular missions to the ISS.
Additional precautions in the event of a pandemic
Bridenstine noted that NASA and SpaceX are taking additional steps to protect astronauts and other workers from the coronavirus crisis. While NASA centers across the country have been locked, the agency has designated Demo-2 as an “essential mission”, allowing it to move forward despite government restrictions on home shelters. Approximately 350 NASA employees work for the Commercial Crew program, use personal protective equipment when necessary, and work in rotation.
The agency “makes sure that we apply all of our social distancing measures,” said Bridenstine. “We use the movement of workers to allow greater distance.”
NASA also said that its astronaut coaches “closely follow the CDC’s infection control recommendations”, with a “limited” number of employees coming into contact with Behnken and Hurley.
“We always quarantine all astronauts before going to the International Space Station,” said Bridenstine. “Now we are taking even more precautions. “
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