SpaceX Demo-2 Launch is a Success, Astronauts Begin 19-Hour Journey to the ISS
As NASA and SpaceX try for the second time to launch the Demo-2 mission, the weather is a major concern as of the morning of the launch.
After the first try for the Demo-2 launch was scrubbed this week with 17 minutes until liftoff due to a storm that blew in, the same might occur again today on attempt number two.
Stay tuned to this article for live play-by-play updates to the mission and watch the live stream below. You can also check out our watch live article.
UPDATE May 31: Crew is onboard the International Space Station
Astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken are now aboard the International Space Station with the rest of the ISS crew. The two astronauts floated into the ISS from their Dragon capsule at 1:22 PM EDT where they were met with another NASA astronaut, Chris Cassidy, who was already on board.
This was the final step in the crucial SpaceX mission to get certified for human spaceflight from NASA. It also marked the end of a 19-hour journey through space for the crew in their Crew Dragon craft, named Endeavor.
Officially, the craft docked with the ISS at 10:16 A.M. EDT, roughly 3 hours before the crew finally was able to leave their seats and float into the ISS. This delay was due to the lengthy amount of time required to equalize pressures in both spaces and otherwise, make sure everything was set to open the hatch.
As of now, we don't know how long the two astronauts will remain aboard the ISS, where they will work with two Russian cosmonauts and another NASA astronaut.
UPDATE May 30, 3:35 PM EDT: Dragon separation confirmed
The Dragon spacecraft has successfully separated from the Falcon 9 rocket and is making its way to the International Space Station.
The entire launch team congratulated Behnken and Hurley on a successful launch.
This marks the beginning of the Crew Dragon spacecraft's 19-hour journey to the International Space Station. Behnken and Hurley will get an 8-hour allotted period to sleep over the journey, but for the most part, now they can sit back and relax as the ship takes them to their destination.
UPDATE May 30, 3:32 PM EDT: First stage lands successfully on the drone ship
The first stage of the Falcon 9 has successfully landed back on the drone ship “Of Course I Still Love You”.
The Falcon 9 and Dragon are exactly where they need to be to make it to the ISS.
UPDATE May 30, 3:26 PM EDT: Falcon first stage separation confirmed, the second stage ignites
The first stage of the Falcon 9 rocket has successfully detached from the rocket and will make its way back to earth. The second stage successfully ignited, pushing the astronauts closer to officially being in space.
The craft is now flying at over 9012 MPH (5600 MPH).
UPDATE May 30, 3:22 PM EDT: Falcon 9 with Crew Dragon capsule has launched successfully
After one scrubbed attempt on Wednesday, SpaceX and NASA have finally succeeded in launching the first two astronauts on a commercial mission into space. The Demo-2 mission appears to be going smoothly for now.
The crew has a 9-minute ride into orbit.
UPDATE May 30, 3:13 PM EDT: Astronauts and Crew say final goodbyes
Astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley exchanged pleasantries before they launch in under 10 minutes.
All crews have signaled that they are 'go for launch', it appears the mission will go as planned at 3:22:45 PM EDT.
At 3:18 fuel loading has also been completed, but the liquid oxygen continues to be loaded.
UPDATE May 30, 3:08 PM EDT: Air Force One lands at Kennedy Space Center
Air Force One, carrying President Trump, has officially touched down at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral Florida. If you’ll recall the president visited the launch site on Wednesday before the launch was scrubbed.
Crews also have noted that they are still monitoring the weather in a few crucial areas and will make the final call at T-7 minutes.
UPDATE May 30, 3:04 PM EDT: Propellant loading moving forward as normal, launch on schedule for 3:22:45 PM EDT
Fuel loading is complete on the second stage of the rocket and the first stage of the fuel load is continuing. As for loading liquid oxygen, it just began loading into the second stage of the rocket.
The weather continues to be 'go for launch' and so far, there have been no issues raised for launching as scheduled.
Assuming the launch does go according to plan, it will be a 9-minute ride for the crew into orbit and about a 19-hour flight in the Crew Dragon to the international space station.
UPDATE May 30, 2:48 PM EDT: Propellant loading begins
Propellant has begun being loaded onto the first and second stages of the Falcon 9 rocket, and will continue loading so long as all mechanical and technical systems continue to indicate "go for launch."
The fuel is known as RP-1, which is the technical name for kerosene. The oxidizer is liquid oxygen. As for the ignition source to create the fire triangle, SpaceX utilizes TEA-TEB, which ignites automatically when it comes into contact with liquid oxygen.
Weather indicators are still signaling "go for launch."
UPDATE May 30, 2:36 PM EDT: ‘Go for propellant load’, ‘Weather is go this time’, crew arm retracted
At T-45 minutes, reports came through that all of the weather constraints that the teams were tracking were go for launch. This is a good signal that the launch will go on as scheduled. If you’ll remember, the weather continued to be a no go for launch up until the last minute on Wednesday.
We also got word that the team poll came back as go for launch. That means that all of the individual teams are signaling a readiness to launch. This also marked a signal to draw back the crew access arm from the Crew Dragon capsule. The two astronauts are now locked and loaded for a 3:22 PM EDT launch.
Probability to scrub is now down to 30%, from 50% at the beginning of the day. Conditions are acceptable as of right now.
At 2:41 PM EDT, the crew was also signaled to close their visors and arm the launch escape system. This is the system that will ensure that the Crew Dragon capsule will protect the astronauts in the case of malfunction in the Falcon 9 systems.
UPDATE May 30, 2:22 PM EDT: The crew is 'go for launch' – T-1 hour
The crew poll for readiness has been completed and all of the teams are “go for launch.” Coming up in about 10 minutes is the crew poll for propellant load, which will signal the loading of supercooled liquid oxygen and kerosene into the two different stages of the rocket.
Weather conditions seem to be improving, though some scattered storms are present near the launch area. Media and launch crews are hopeful that the launch will take place today.
As we move into this final hour before launch, everything is starting to feel real for both astronauts and the support staff for the launch.
UPDATE May 30, 2:04 PM EDT: William Shatner, Bill Nye speak on Demo-2 mission
William Shatner — who played Captain Kirk in the science fiction show "Star Trek," spoke during the live-stream to wish the astronauts godspeed and a great flight.
Bill Nye — renowned celebrity scientist and star of "Bill Nye the Science Guy" — also spoke during the broadcast. He urged viewers to consider this mission as the beginning of a new era of commercial space exploration, which he also claimed was great for science.
T- 1 hour 18 minutes from launch. It looks like the weather will be clearing in about 20 minutes.
UPDATE May 30, 1:40 PM EDT: Currently no go on launch weather, expected to clear before launch time
With rain hitting the Falcon 9 and the Dragon capsule on the launchpad, we just heard from the crew that the weather is expected to clear by launch time. As mentioned by Jim Bridenstine, NASA Administrator, in an earlier briefing, weather forecasters are expecting the skies to clear in all areas by 3 PM EDT this afternoon. This would give SpaceX enough of a clearing to launch with no issue.
For now, everything is uncertain thanks again to the weather. The next decision point will be prop load, which will occur at T-35 minutes. It’s likely that with the proposed weather clearing coming after that, we’ll still enter into prop load with some uncertainty to launch.
UPDATE May 30, 1:15 PM EDT: Hatch door closed, the weather is worrying
Site technicians are working from the outside of the Crew Dragon capsule to close the hatch and seal the astronauts into the craft until launch. While this is happening, there are darker clouds gathering around the launch pad, something that doesn’t bode well for the launch happening today. Even with that said, there’s still a 50/50 chance for the launch.
As we noted before, today’s launch window is instantaneous, meaning that SpaceX can’t push the launch back any amount. If the weather isn’t perfect right at 3:22, then the launch has to be scrubbed.
In a post-ingress brief, the crew was updated on the status of the weather and told that the next major decision point will be right before the start of the propellant load, which will occur at T-35 minutes.
UPDATE May 30, 12:50 PM EDT: Astronauts complete communications check, seats rotated into place
The seats in the Crew Dragon capsule have been rotated up into place. This puts the astronauts in more of a laying down position as they near closer to launch.
Before rotation, the crew completed communications checks, meticulously checking every communications system for total functionality and performance to catch potential issues early and before the launch.
The hatch on the Crew Dragon capsule is still open to the crew loading arm, but in about 30 minutes, that hatch will seal and the arm will retract. This will seal the astronauts into the craft until they either reach the space station or the launch gets scrubbed and they step back onto land.
UPDATE May 30, 12:36 PM EDT: Behnken and Hurley board SpaceX Crew Dragon Capsule
After making their final goodbyes to family and friends through the phone at the top of the launch platform, both astronauts have now loaded into the Crew Dragon capsule. Called the white room, this room at the end of the crew loading arm is the last place on earth that the crew will see on earth.
Hurley loaded the Crew Dragon capsule first, followed by Behnken. As they took their seats, their respective suit technicians started bucking them into place in the seats of the capsule. Their umbilical cords were also connected to the crew's spacesuits. These supply fresh and pressurized air, and also feature active communication lines to ground control. The crew dragon can hold up to four astronauts, but today’s first crewed flight will only see two seats occupied, seats 2 and 3.
As for the weather, there is still a 50% chance that the launch is going to be scrubbed due to weather. However, right now, all systems are go for launch.
UPDATE May 30, 12:28 PM EDT: Crew arrives at the launchpad in Tesla Model X vehicles, ride up to Crew Dragon capsule
Astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley arrived at launch pad 39A after leaving the Operations and Checkout Building. The view of the astronauts exiting the Tesla Model X’s gull-wing doors in SpaceX’s spacesuits felt like science fiction.
Both astronauts have taken the elevator 77 meters (255 feet) into the air — to the top of the crew platform — as they prepare to load into the Crew Dragon capsule.
T- 2 hours 54 minutes until the launch.
UPDATE May 30, 12:03 PM EDT: Clarkson sings the anthem, astronauts leave checkout building, wave goodbye to family
The spacesuit checks have been completed, including leak checks, and the crew has left the checkout building. Their families and some media were standing by to say their final goodbyes for now. Both Behnken and Hurley hopped into their Model X transport vehicles to begin the 20-minute ride to the launch platform. These Model X's have been fit with cooling units to keep them perfectly cool on the transport trip.
This marks the beginning of the end of the launch prep process. Next, the crew will ride up a 77 meters (255 feet) elevator to get up to the Crew Dragon platform.
Experts continue to debate the state of the conditions around the launch, which will pose the biggest risk to the demo-2 mission.
UPDATE May 30, 11:26 AM EDT: Crew arrives in the suit-up room, begin preparations for the launch
Astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley have donned their SpaceX suits in the historic suit-up room at the Kennedy Space Center. This is the room where most astronauts over the years have suited up and prepared before missions, located in the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building. The main difference for this launch is the suits and the seats that the crew waits in.
Apollo and shuttle astronauts had La-Z-boy recliners that they suited up in, however, now the astronauts have duplicate seats from the crew dragon capsule they get prepped in. The other difference is the suits, each custom fit for each of the astronauts and far more fitted than the space-suits of past.
UPDATE May 30, 11:08 AM EDT: Use the hashtag #LaunchAmerica and experts still cautious of weather
Use the hashtag #LaunchAmerica on Twitter where users can ask questions to NASA during its live stream today. The team will be posting live polls, behind the scenes photos, and other launch day updates.
Jim Bridenstine, the current NASA administrator, tweeted this morning that weather conditions are still giving the launch today a 50/50 chance of being scrubbed. Like the planned launch Wednesday, today's launch has an instantaneous launch window. This means that the launch can't be delayed past the 3:22 PM EDT launch time. Continue reading the rest of this article for a description of why these missions have instantaneous launch windows.
Weather is getting in the way
The issue isn't just the weather at the launch site, but the state of the weather over nearly the entirety of the east coast. This is due to clear skies being needed if the crew needs to abort the mission and land in the Atlantic for rescue. That becomes much more dangerous in heavy storms at sea.
Everything mechanically and technically worked perfectly during the launch preparations on Wednesday, but the launch had to be scrubbed at just 17 minutes to go because the weather conditions didn't clear. Wednesday's launch - as well as today's launch - had an instantaneous launch window. This means that the crews only have a 1-second deviation to the launch time.
Unlike missions for satellites with greater launch windows, missions to the ISS, especially manned ones, have much tighter deadlines. This is largely due to the orbital dynamics needed to get to the ISS. In simplified terms, because the earth and the ISS are constantly moving, waiting past the launch window would dramatically lengthen their journey and possibly cause the craft to run out of fuel.
The other aspect that dictates the instantaneous window is the liquid-cooled fuel. Once it begins loading at the T-35 minute mark, the clock starts ticking with an extra level of heft. The fuel, super-cooled liquid oxygen, and kerosene start to boil off as it sits in the stages of the Falcon 9 rocket on the pad. If it sits past the launch window, too much fuel could boil off and the mission could fail.
For today's launch on May 30 at 3:22:45 PM EDT, not only do we have an instantaneous launch window again, but the 45th Weather Squadron of the U.S. Air Force shows a 50% chance the weather will interfere today. The back-up window to launch today is tomorrow, Sunday, May 31st. The Squadron gave tomorrow a 40% chance of weather causing a scrub.
The launch is a historic and crucial event
The launch will be taking place from the historic launch pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. This site is where most of the Apollo missions lifted off from as well as most of the shuttle missions.
This will be the first crewed launch into space from the U.S. soil since the end of the space shuttle program in 2011. Demo-2 will be manned by Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley, where they will ride on a roughly 19-hour journey to dock with the International Space Station (ISS).
This launch is a major benchmark for both SpaceX and NASA. In essence, we're about to see capabilities of the Crew Dragon capsule and the Falcon 9 reusable rocket system legitimized for human spaceflight. After a successful mission, it will clear SpaceX to launch more manned missions to the ISS and elsewhere in the cosmos.
The Qualifications of Astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley
Both astronauts set to launch today on the Demo-2 mission are seasoned NASA astronauts. Robert "Bob" Behnken is the former chief of the astronaut office, holds a doctorate in mechanical engineering, and flew aboard shuttle missions in 2008 and 2010. Bob has logged a total of 708 hours in space and 37 hours of spacewalk time.
Doug Hurley is a Marine Corps pilot and engineer who has piloted two shuttle missions — one in 2009 and one in 2011, the final flight of the shuttle program. He is in command of the Crew Dragon Demo-2 mission, which will restart manned launches from U.S. soil. Notably, aside from his accolades working with NASA, he was the first Marine pilot to fly the F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet.