SpaceX recently revealed new spacesuits at a training event for its highly anticipated Crew Dragon launch. The session took place at the company’s headquarters in Hawthorne, California, according to a NASA blog post.
NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley joined ground operators to simulate pre-launch operations for the upcoming Demo-2 mission. Their impending journey will follow Crew Dragon’s successful Demo-1 uncrewed spaceflight to the International Space Station (ISS) back in March.
Demo-2 will make history as SpaceX becomes the first private aerospace company to send humans to the International Space Station (ISS) from American soil.
Suiting Up for Space Travel
The pair of American astronauts and ground team members ran through all of the Demo-2 launch day procedures at the recent event. Both Behnken and Hurley suited up as part of the simulation. The SpaceX ground closeout team and suit engineers also worked through the process. To best simulate safety procedures, the same seats and suit leak checkboxes that will be present for the real Demo-2 launch were used.
Photos of Doug Hurley wearing the suit reveal its relatively sleek design compared to the bulkier spacesuits Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin wore for the historic Apollo 11 moon landing in 1969. American flag emblems appear on the shoulders of SpaceX’s grey and white suit. Each astronaut also wore gloves and a helmet during training.
After suiting up, the crew members and corresponding teams conducted a simulated launch countdown. The astronauts sat inside a Crew Dragon simulator during the session. They also performed several mock emergency exit exercises.
The Hawthorne training session is one of several that will precede the first Crew Dragon manned spaceflight. Safety remains a top priority as NASA, SpaceX, Boeing, and other partnering organizations prepare to launch the astronauts to the ISS from Kennedy Space Center’s landmark Launch Complex 39A.
SpaceX initially projected that the launch would occur in 2019. Unfortunately, the mission has experienced some significant setbacks. Most notably, the Crew Dragon capsule suffered an “anomaly” that triggered an explosion during an engine test fire in April.
At a Congressional subcommittee hearing in May, NASA’s Associate Administrator of Human Exploration and Operations, William H. Gerstenmaier, revealed that another critical Dragon test failed the previous month. The scenario intended to show what would happen if one of the capsule’s four parachutes failed. Instead of one failing to open, all four parachutes failed.
Gerstenmaier confirmed the issue at the hearing. He said, “The test was not satisfactory. We did not get the results we wanted. The parachutes did not work as designed.”
Last month, SpaceX Vice President of Build and Flexibility, Hans Koenigsmann, admitted that launching a crewed flight by the end of 2019 is becoming “increasingly difficult.” According to a Reuters report, the executive noted the challenges facing the mission when he discussed the April explosion during a conference call.
Crew Dragon Launch Status
At this point, NASA has not yet announced an official Crew Dragon Demo-2 launch date. The space agency addressed the delays in a statement, while also stressing that astronaut safety comes first.
“NASA and our partners want to fly astronauts as quickly as we can without compromising the safety of our astronauts and always will give safety precedence over schedule,” the agency stated. “However, our schedules matter. The NASA Administrator has directed all programs in the Human Exploration and Operations Directorate to reexamine flight dates once new leadership is in place to deliver realistic schedule plans.”
Meanwhile, astronauts and ground teams will continue to participate in more training sessions to prepare for the groundbreaking mission.