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Demo-1: What’s the Deal?

Demo-1: What’s the Deal?

Whether or not you caught the SpaceX Crew Dragon launch this past weekend, here’s your chance to learn why this mission, known as Demo-1, is such a big deal.

The First of its Kind

Demo-1 is the first flight test of an American spacecraft designed for humans built and operated by a commercial company. 

Liftoff

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The SpaceX Crew Dragon lifted off at 2:49 a.m. EST Saturday, March 2, on the company’s Falcon 9 rocket from Kennedy Space Center. 

This was the first time in history a commercially-built American crew spacecraft and rocket launched from American soil. 

A New Era in Human Spaceflight

Demo-1: What’s the Deal?

Upon seeing the arriving spacecraft, NASA astronaut Anne McClain snapped a photo from the International Space Station: “Welcome to a new era in human spaceflight.” 

Docking the Dragon

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After making 18 orbits of Earth, the Crew Dragon spacecraft successfully attached to the International Space Station’s Harmony module at 5:51 a.m. EST Sunday, March 3. The Crew Dragon used the station’s new international docking adapter for the first time since astronauts installed it in August 2016. 

The docking phase, in addition to the return and recovery of Crew Dragon, are critical to understanding the system’s ability to support crew flights.

Opening the Hatch

Demo-1: What’s the Deal?

After opening the hatch between the two spacecraft, the crewmates configured Crew Dragon for its stay. 

They installed a ventilation system that cycles air from Crew Dragon to the station, installed window covers and checked valves. After that, the crew was all set for a welcoming ceremony for the visiting vehicle. 

Ripley and Little Earth

Demo-1: What’s the Deal?

Although the test is uncrewed, that doesn’t mean the Crew Dragon is empty. Along for the ride was Ripley, a lifelike test device outfitted with sensors to provide data about potential effects on future astronauts. (There is also a plush Earth doll included inside that can float in the microgravity!)

Inside the Dragon

For future operational missions, Crew Dragon will be able to launch as many as four crew members and carry more than 220 pounds of cargo. This will increase the number of astronauts who are able to live onboard the station, which will create more time for research in the unique microgravity environment.

Integration

Demo-1: What’s the Deal?

Since the arrival of SpaceX Crew Dragon, the three Expedition 58 crew members have returned to normal operations (with some new additions to the team!) 

Undocking

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The Crew Dragon is designed to stay docked to station for up to 210 days, although the spacecraft used for this flight test will remain docked to the space station for only five days, departing Friday, March 8. (We will be providing live coverage — don’t miss it!)

SpaceX and NASA

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Elon Musk, CEO and lead designer at SpaceX, expressed appreciation for NASA’s support: “SpaceX would not be here without NASA, without the incredible work that was done before SpaceX even started and without the support after SpaceX did start.”

Preparation for Demo-2

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NASA and SpaceX will use data from Demo-1 to further prepare for Demo-2, the crewed flight test that will carry NASA astronauts and Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken to the International Space Station. NASA will validate the performance of SpaceX’s systems before putting crew on board for the Demo-2 flight, currently targeted for July 2019.

Demo-1: So What?

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Demo-1 is a big deal because it demonstrates NASA and commercial companies working together to advance future space exploration! With Demo-1’s success, NASA and SpaceX will begin to prepare to safely fly astronauts to the orbital laboratory.

Follow along with mission updates with the Space Station blog.

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