Updated: Oct 14, 2020
SpaceX Demo-2 (also referred to as Crew Demo-2, and Dragon Crew Demo-2) is a crewed test flight of the Crew Dragon spacecraft, which launched on 30 May 2020 at 19:22:45 UTC. Demo-2 is the first crewed orbital spaceflight launched from the United States since the final Space Shuttle mission, STS-135, in 2011, and also the first ever operated by a commercial provider. The mission, which launched spacecraft commander Douglas Hurley and joint-operations commander Robert Behnken to the International Space Station, is also the first two-person orbital spaceflight launched from the United States since STS-4 in 1982. The spacecraft is scheduled to dock with the International Space Station on 31 May 2020 at 10:29 a.m. EDT (14:29 UTC). The first attempt to launch on 27 May 2020 was aborted at T–16:53 minutes due to bad weather caused by Tropical Storm Bertha.
After STS-135, the final mission of the Space Shuttle program in 2011, the United States' NASA no longer had any spacecraft system capable of sending humans to space. Subsequently, it used Russian facilities to send its astronauts into the International Space Station (ISS), costing up to $80 million per astronaut with the Soyuz. NASA started engaging with private companies like SpaceX as an alternative, which is expected to cost 50% less than Soyuz once it becomes fully operational. Up to the launch, NASA has awarded a total of $3.1 billion for the development of the Dragon. The Demo-2 mission is expected to be SpaceX's last major test before it is certified by NASA for regular crewed spaceflights. Prior to that, SpaceX had sent twenty cargo missions to the ISS, but never a crewed one. Other than SpaceX, Boeing is also working on crewed orbital spaceflight under the same NASA effort.
Douglas Hurley and Robert Behnken were announced as the primary crew on 3 August 2018. Both astronauts are veterans of the Space Shuttle program, and the Demo-2 flight is the third trip to space for both of them. Hurley served as pilot on STS-135, thus flying on the last shuttle mission, and is piloting the first commercial crew mission.
Once in orbit, the crew and SpaceX mission control will verify the spacecraft is performing as intended by testing the environmental control and life support systems, the maneuvering thrusters, and thermal control systems, among other things. Crew Dragon will perform a series of phasing maneuvers to position itself for rendezvous and docking with the International Space Station.
The spacecraft is designed to do this autonomously but astronauts onboard the spacecraft and the Space Station will be diligently monitoring approach and docking and can take control of the spacecraft if necessary.
Upon conclusion of the mission, Crew Dragon will autonomously undock with the two astronauts onboard the spacecraft and depart the Space Station. After jettisoning the trunk and conducting its deorbit burn, which lasts approximately 12 minutes, Dragon will reenter Earth’s atmosphere.
Upon splashdown just off Florida’s Atlantic Coast, Dragon and the astronauts will be quickly recovered by SpaceX’s Go Navigator recovery vessel and returned to Cape Canaveral. Update coming soon for the return