KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. – NASA has cleared SpaceX to launch two astronauts on the Crew Dragon spacecraft after completing a final extensive review before the May 27 launch.
SpaceX and NASA teams conducted a flight-readiness review clearing the way for the first launch of NASA astronauts for SpaceX and the first from U.S. soil since 2011.
NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken will be the first passengers on a new spacecraft, returning human spaceflight to Florida’s Coast.
NASA and SpaceX officials spoke about the review Friday and concerns that were addressed over two days. The extensive overview also included input from NASA’s international partners, Russia and Japan.
NASA’s International Space Station Program manager Kirk Shireman credited SpaceX for working to address concerns from the Russian space agency, Roscosmos, even modifying the Crew Dragon’s approach.
NASA Commercial Crew Program manager Kathy Lueders said even after the launch the work won’t be complete until both astronauts return home from the Demo-2 mission.
“We’re not done ... we gotta do this right,” Lueders said. “We gotta make sure they get home and we are committed to do that.”
At the end of the review, NASA Associate Administrator Steve Jurczyk said there were no current issues which gives SpaceX an interim human rating certification.
As part of the Commercial Crew Program Both SpaceX, with Crew Dragon and Boeing, with Starliner, have been conducting tests to work toward certifying their spacecraft to fly NASA astronauts.
“Today’s review went a long way to certify the system for crewed flight,” Jurcyk said, adding after the Demo-2 mission, SpaceX could receive the final rating certification.
In another step toward launch day, SpaceX conducted a static fire of Falcon 9 Friday afternoon. The rocket was vertical on Kennedy Space Center Launchpad 39A ahead of the test of the rocket’s nine engines.
By all accounts, from the distance, the white smoke from the Falcon 9′s nine engineers looked to be a success but the final determination will come from NASA and SpaceX.
If the static fire goes as planned, SpaceX and NASA will conduct a dry dress rehearsal on Saturday of the launch.
The astronauts will get up around 8 a.m., put on their flight suits and take a Tesla to the launchpad. Once at 39A, Hurley and Behnken will then take the launch tower elevator to the spacecraft, get strapped in and proceed through the countdown as they will on launch day.
SpaceX will also perform another flight readiness review just before the launch to make triple check “we are really ready,” SpaceX director of crew mission management Benji Reed said.
“Over the next few days, there will be constant vigilance, to make sure we are ‘Go’ for each aspect,” Reed said.
Leuders echoed that sentiment saying NASA teams will be working through the weekend up until the moment of the launch.
“Right now we are trying to identify any risks that we know of and buy them down,” she said. “Human spaceflight is really, really tough and its why we continue to look for risks. We never feel comfortable because that’s when your not searching.”
The launch is currently scheduled for 4:33 p.m. on May 27.