It is a historic week for SpaceX and the complete private sector working on space projects. On May 27, the Elon Musk led company is to launch their first space flight with astronauts in it, which is to elevate from the ISS at 4:33 PM EDT. The launch is happening from Pad 39a of Kennedy Space Center.
After a tiring set of trails done by SpaceX, they are finally launching a manned spacecraft. The name of the rocket is Crew Dragon and the mission has been called Demo-2. Crew Dragon spacecraft will include NASA astronauts, Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken on board. It is the first ISS test mission. If things go as planned, the Crew Dragon and Falcon 9 rocket will get clearance for upcoming crew missions. One of these are supposed to happen later in 2020.
The Crew Dragon Launch
May 27, 2020 marks an important day for Elon Musk and other private companies working on space projects. Check out how the launch is supposed to go about:
Around five hours before the launch, the astronauts will reach the NASA crew quarters which is about 14 km from launch site. They have Tesla Model X cars to reach the destination. In the meantime, the US Air Force’s Weather Squadron is to verify weather conditions to ensure that the weather is perfect for the launch.
In conditions where the weather is not ideal, the launch will be postponed. The next reserved slot for the same is Saturday, May 30. The astronauts will be served breakfast before they get dressed up and reach at the launch pad 39a. This is around three hours before the launch time.
When the time is around 2 hours 15 mins left for launch, the astronauts will enter Crew Dragon through an elevated access arm. They will go through a small module atop the Falcon 9.
The astronauts need 25 minutes to get everything rolling and then the transit hatch will be locked. It next opens when it reaches ISS docking station.
The flight and separation
The rocket is supposed to take-off at 4:33 EDT from Kennedy Space Center. Approximately 2 mins and 30 secs is needed for the first stage booster of Falcon 9 to depart from the second stage of the rocket.
After separation the first stage booster gears up for landing back on the earth. It is a critical step for SpaceX as they promise to have reusable spacecraft to make space travel cheaper than usual.
Return phase of booster involves a flip maneuver, after which it fires the engine for a back and re-entry burn. The process will bring it down to the autonomous drone ship – ‘Of course I still love you’. This is an honor to all the failed and successful flight trails by SpaceX.
In the meantime, the rocket will be moving towards the space and the second stage of will fire the engine post-separation. The process will take six minutes and then separate from spacecraft and will stay in the space. The spacecraft’s energy will be obtained from solar panels that are integrated from the rocket’s body itself.
Approaching ISS and Docking
The spacecraft will continue quite a few maneuvers by itself to raise the elevation to around 400 km from the earth and then enter a periphery around ISS called ‘keep-out sphere’.
At this height, the rocket will begin approaching towards the Pressurized Mating Adapter-2 (PMA-2) on the Harmony module by ISS. This is the designated docking station for Crew Dragon. The docking process is autonomous and then maneuvered slowly.
The elevation, movement, and docking process will take 18 hours and 56 minutes precisely. The rocket is set to launch at 11:29 am on May 28. When the docking process is complete, the hatch of Crew Dragon will open at 1:55 pm, which is 2 hours and 26 mins after the docking time. Astronauts Hurley and Behnken will then join Russian cosmonauts Ivan Vagner and Anatoly Ivanishin and NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy, who are present at the ISS for Expedition 63 already.
How to live stream crew dragon launch?
The launch of Crew Dragon spacecraft will be telecasted live on YouTube. Tune in to the NASA TV channel or subscribe to it right now to get immediate notification during the launch. You can also tune into the SpaceX channel or website for live updates.
The live video will continue until the docking of Crew Dragon with ISS. Visitors are not allowed on launch site. President Trump will be present at Kennedy Space Center to watch the historic moment.
It is interesting to know that this is the first time after 2011 that astronauts are being launched to ISS from the US. However, Virgin Galactic achieved to take people to space two times since 2018. According to reports, VSS Unity took astronauts to a height of 82.72km on December 13, 2018, and again on February 22, 2019, the astronauts reach 89.9km above the earth’s surface. NASA stays that space starts at a height of 80km from the earth’s surface.
Significant of Crew Dragon launch
NASA’s Commercial Crew Program commenced in 2011 and selected privatized companies that could launch astronauts to ISS. NASA stopped its space shuttle that year and since then has been depending on Russian Soyuz for launches.
As per reports, Russia charges around $86 million per astronaut in spacecraft. However, it costs $55 million for the same when launched by SpaceX. The launch of astronauts by SpaceX is seen as restoring American pride. In the last century, Russia and US were constantly competing in terms of success and losses of space expeditions. It is also a step towards self-sufficiency for the US when collaborating with a private company of its own country. Presently, China is intensifying their space program but is also stuck with US due to trade war.