NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 Mission Will Showcase Public-Private Partnership Benefits

By  //  May 12, 2020

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Launch set May 27 from Kennedy Space Center

In this image from October 2018, the fully completed station continues its mission to conduct microgravity research and experiments — ranging from human physiology to astronomy aboard humanity’s only orbital laboratory. (NASA image)

BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA – When NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 mission takes flight, it will usher in a new era in human spaceflight.

NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley will fly to the International Space Station aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft, launching atop the company’s Falcon 9 rocket.

Not only will the mission renew American capability to launch astronauts from U.S. soil, but it also will expand the number of crew members onboard the station – and, in turn, increase the opportunities to conduct scientific investigations in the unique environment of low-Earth orbit.

NASA’s Commercial Crew Program is working with partners SpaceX and Boeing to develop a U.S. commercial crew space transportation capability with the goal of achieving safe, reliable and cost-effective access to and from the space station and other destinations in low-Earth orbit.

NASA will provide coverage of the upcoming prelaunch activities for the agency’s SpaceX Demo-2 test flight with NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley to the International Space Station. (SpaceX images)

Commercial transportation to and from the station will provide expanded utility, additional research time, and broader opportunities for discovery on the orbiting laboratory.

“That’s what Commercial Crew is all about. This is a new generation, a new era in human spaceflight,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said during a briefing May 1.

“NASA has the ability to be a customer – one customer of many customers – in a very robust commercial marketplace in low-Earth orbit. We also want to have numerous providers competing against each other on constant innovation.”

Partnerships have always played an important role in NASA’s achievements. Throughout its history, the agency has worked with industry and academia to explore and utilize the space frontier.

Contractors built rockets, satellites, and spacecraft. Colleges and universities have worked with NASA scientists and engineers to develop technology to support investigations leading to discoveries. (NASA image)

Contractors built rockets, satellites, and spacecraft. Colleges and universities have worked with NASA scientists and engineers to develop technology to support investigations leading to discoveries.

As the 30-year Space Shuttle Program drew to a close, NASA again began plans to reach beyond low-Earth orbit. To allow a focus on exploration to the Moon and Mars, NASA has entered into partnerships with industry opening a variety of new opportunities.

A little more than two years after the final shuttle flight, SpaceX’s Dragon and Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus spacecraft began successfully launching atop their company’s Falcon 9 and Antares rockets to resupply the International Space Station.

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The companies developed the rockets and spacecraft through public-private partnerships under the agency’s commercial resupply services contracts.

“Commercialization is a big effort on board the International Space Station,” said Kirk Shireman, manager of NASA’s International Space Station Program.

“We’re working with commercial partners developing facilities, testing modules; today, we already transport cargo commercially, and very soon, of course, we look forward to transporting our crews commercially.

This really is the next major step in commercializing low-Earth orbit and having a really viable low-Earth orbit economy in which NASA is one of many customers.”

A NEW ERA OF HUMAN SPACEFLIGHT is set to begin as American astronauts once again launch on an American rocket from American soil to the International Space Station as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley will fly on SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft, lifting off on a Falcon 9 rocket at 4:32 p.m. EDT May 27, from Launch Complex 39A in Florida, for an extended stay at the space station for the Demo-2 mission. (NASA image)

The agency has also adopted a five-part plan to enable a thriving economy in low-Earth orbit, including adopting new policies that allow some commercial and marketing activities to take plan on the space station, creating the opportunity for future private astronaut missions, supporting the development of new commercial destinations, and pursuing activities that foster new and emerging markets.

During the past nearly 20 years of continuous human presence onboard the orbiting laboratory, Shireman said, resident crews have conducted more than 2,900 scientific investigations for more than 4,000 researchers together with partners in 108 countries and areas across the globe.

NASA and its commercial and international partners are eager to expand the opportunities for human spaceflight and additional science.

“We are closer than ever to bringing human spaceflight capabilities back to the United States for the first time since 2011 since the Space Shuttle retired,” said Benji Reed, SpaceX’s director of crew mission management.

“The criticality of this is not just that capability but to help the space station stay fully operational – to help not only our space program but the programs of many countries around the world.”

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