SpaceX’s first manned SUCCESSFUL Dragon launch


Genesis cover

On Christmas Eve 1968 three Americans became the first humans to visit another world. What they did to celebrate was unexpected and profound, and will be remembered throughout all human history. Genesis: the Story of Apollo 8, Robert Zimmerman's classic history of humanity's first journey to another world, tells that story, and it is now available as both an ebook and an audiobook, both with a foreword by Valerie Anders and a new introduction by Robert Zimmerman.

 
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UPDATE: I am off on a caving trip on Sunday, May 31st, so I will not be doing any updates to this post. The live feeds however will still be here and, though they are presently showing a replay of the launch today, should be covering Dragon’s rendezvous and docking with ISS on Sunday..

UPDATE: Dragon is in orbit. SpaceX has successfully used its Falcon 9 rocket to place to Americans into space, the first American launch from American soil in an American spacecraft on an American rocket in nine years.

The leaders in the 2020 launch race:

9 China
7 Russia
7 SpaceX
3 ULA

The U.S. now leads China 12 to 9 in the national rankings.

UPDATE: I have added NASA’s media live feed to the one provided on SpaceX’s website. There will be some hype on SpaceX’s feed, but the media feed had no commentary. Pick which you prefer.

UPDATE: NASA and SpaceX have decided to attempt a launch today. The weather remains at 50-50 for launch.

Capitalism in space: Below are the live streams of SpaceX’s first manned Dragon launch, presently scheduled for launch at 3:22 pm (Eastern) tomorrow, May 30, 2020.

First, the feed from SpaceX’s website:

Second, the media feed from NASA, with no narration:

The live coverage will begin at 11 am (Eastern), and because this presentation is a partnership of NASA and SpaceX, will be filled with a lot of hype that one normally does not see during a SpaceX live feed, though I will note that during the live feed of the May 27th scrubbed launch, the NASA hype was kept relatively tame, compared to previous events. It seemed they accepted some guidance from SpaceX on how to do this in a way that seemed less fake or propagandistic.

This time I am embedding the media feed, which might have even less hype.

This post is also set to remain at the top of the page until after the launch, or after the launch is scrubbed, whichever happens. At the moment the weather says there is a 50-50 chance of launching, so we might end up having a scrub again, like on May 27th. In fact, NASA and SpaceX have already said in the evening of May 29th that they will reassess the weather in the AM on May 30th and decide whether to continue with the countdown or scrub. If so, this link and live feed will remain for the Sunday, May 31st, launch attempt.

As I did during the first launch attempt on May 27th, I will also periodically post below the fold images captured from the live feed, with some commentary. Comments from readers are of course welcome, as always.

NOTE: You will need to refresh the post periodically to see new images and commentary.

For other news updates, scroll down.

Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken look up at Falcon 9

I like this image and moment because I honestly do not remember any previous American launches where the astronauts were able to stop at the base of the rocket and admire it, prior to getting into the elevator to take them up to the capsule. This might have happened during the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo launches, but it certainly did not happen during the entire shuttle program, as far as I know.

The ground crew doing the leak check after closing the hatch

They have now closed the hatch, and the image above shows the ground crew doing the leak check to make sure it is sealed properly.

What strikes me about this are the numbers on the backs of the ground crew. Y’know, in sports they added the names of the players above the numbers many years ago. It is too bad the crew here doesn’t get the same public credit.

I must add that these individuals are SpaceX employees, not from NASA. It is important to note that this is not really a NASA mission, it is a commercial SpaceX launch, with NASA merely the customer. While there are certainly NASA representatives scattered throughout operations, the vast majority of everyone you see works for SpaceX. They are running the show.

raindrops on camera lens

The weather is presently no-go for launch (as indicated by the raindrops on the camera lens in the image above), but they hope things will improve by T-0. They plan to reassess just before they begin fueling the rocket, about thirty minutes before launch.

If you are watching the SpaceX feed, you will be also watching a lot of interviews of NASA people and pre-made videos from NASA extolling the wonders of private commercial space and reuseability. This is good, but I find it amusing, because the people at NASA were the last to finally sign on to the ideas of depending of private commercial space and reuseability. NASA’s commercial program began in 2008, and it wasn’t until about a year ago that the agency finally accepted it completely. Before then, large sections of NASA’s bureaucracy fought tooth and nail to either block it or to slow it down.

However, the proof is in the pudding, and the pudding of private enterprise (freedom and competition) has been amply demonstrated by SpaceX, as it has for almost the entire history of the United States. It is time for modern Americans to embrace it again.

Clearing skies at launchpad

They just had a new weather check, and “the weather is go at this time.” The picture above illustrates this, in that it appears the rain has stopped there.

If nothing changes it sounds like the launch is also a go.

Crew access arm retracting

They have begun loading fuel, and have retracted the jetway, or crew access arm. Right now they rank the weather odds for launch to have improved to 70%.
Liftoff
They have launched, and all systems are nominal.

Note: The NASA media feed is showing nothing but the launchpad, so stick with the SpaceX feed.
Entry burn

The first stage has completed its entry burn for landing.

First stage landed

The first stage has landed smoothly. The capsule has been placed into orbit perfectly.

Dragon separated from the upper stage

The image above shows Dragon moving away from the upper stage after separation. The capsule is now on its own. It will take nineteen hours to get to ISS and dock there.

The job of Falcon 9 is now over. It did its job perfectly, as it has on almost every launch.

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32 comments

  • Brendan

    I was watching the last one.

    Science! On the space station.

    My eyes rolled to the back of my head and I passed out from boredom.

    Why isn’t Elon spicing this up with mars colonization, or asteroid mining, or something that gets kids enthused. Maybe science, but why not something that gets the emotions racing?

  • Brendan

    Frankly, not trying to suck up. But they should hire you to do commentary Bob. Your work on John Batchelor is often inspirational.

  • DaveM

    They sort of resemble stagehands, but the numbers on the back will make them stick out. My first inclination was the numbers were there so that no matter what, they were all accounted for going in and coming out.

  • Brendan: Thank you for the kind words, but I sincerely doubt NASA will ever want me around. I have a terrible personal fault: I always tell the truth, as I see it. I can’t go along with the party line. This is not acceptable to any government operation.

  • sippin_bourbon

    To baby!

  • sippin_bourbon

    Darn autocorrect… Go!

  • Jay

    Beautiful launch! Great to see the view of the HMI screens inside the Dragon.
    Of course all the satellite/ISS tracking websites I use are “Service Unavailable” since everyone wants to see when Dragon will be flying overhead.

  • Alex Andrite

    “The first stage has landed smoothly. The capsule has been placed into orbit perfectly.”

    I went to my large screen and the NASA site to watch this with my grand nephew, 10years old, beginning at T- 2hrs. Trusting that some seeds might be planted.
    A very cool thing to watch !
    More watching this afternoon, and tomorrow afternoon.

  • Mitch S

    Look at it one way, what’s the big deal? – the Russians have been launching humans to the station all this time.
    And the fact that the US gov’t agency hasn’t been able to launch a person into space for almost a decade is a sobering sign of the ossification of the US federal gov’t.
    But this launch signals the continuing vitality of American private enterprise.
    If ten years ago Musk had stated (and he might have!) that by the end of 2020 he will sell over 1 million electric cars and launch humans tho the space station, he would have universally been declared nuts.
    Musk started in South Africa but he could only do it here.
    America is great, let’s keep it that way.
    (I feel like I’m witnessing a chapter in a Heinlein book)

  • Brendan

    Ha! NASA had a 1 minute delay vs the spacex streaming. Why would they do that???

    True Bob. NASA and ULA probably don’t like you. Can’t imagine how ULA is feeling today. I remember the LM VP who spoke the gafftastic truth to the CSU engineering class about how they (feared? I think it was) spacex.

    They did need more pro Mars and space exploration propaganda before the launch. Got to lure the kids in with something exciting.

  • Max

    That was great, I get excited all over again. I first felt this way watching Apollo on a black-and-white TV in grade school. I drew pictures and made model rockets for years afterwards.

    Like Brendon, I also would like to see an announcement by SpaceX, perhaps by Elon musk himself, of goals reached, and the new milestones just ahead as well as Mars infrastructure being worked on now. After all, did he not say his goal was to die on Mars? The man has had a lot of success and failure in his life. I must respect a man who learns from his failures. The entire human race will now benefit if he/as he holds true to his dreams.

    As I watched the second stage detach to burn up on reentry, I couldn’t help thinking what a waste…
    It had already achieved orbit, couldn’t all that metal and pressure tanks have a secondary purpose? Extra fuel storage? counterbalance experiment on artificial gravity? Air pressure door pre-installed in the large fuel tank for extra or emergency living space? separate container for more dangerous experimentation? Just storage. Or my personal favorite, Space construction training module for spacewalks. Every booster added to the construction could eventually result in a rotating space station, privately owned hotel serviced by SpaceX. Temporary low gravity living quarters for the construction of the Mars venture(s).
    Or perhaps possible future use. Empty burn to geosynchronous graveyard orbit. Tanks will be needed for fuel storage from the lunar Pole ice.
    If you have trouble with your rocket motor, you can’t call mechanic. If there’s a billion dollar junkyard above the Pacific full of used motors and parts…

  • Edward_2

    Why does it take 19 hours for the Dragon to catch up to the ISS?

  • Edward_2: There are others who read BtB who can answer this question better than I, but basically it is a function of orbital mechanics and timing. They launch at a specific time to put them in an orbit that will steadily catch up with ISS, approaching it from the right direction so that the Sun will in the right place to not block their view. The approach also has the spacecraft arrive from a safe direction to minimize the chances of a collusion.

    It probably can be done faster, but to do so would like be more costly in fuel. The Russians for example for decades took no less than two days to get to all their stations. Only in the past five years have they changed their methods to speed things up. They can now get a spacecraft there in as little as six hours.

  • wayne

    so….who remembers this?

    Bob & Doug (McKenzie)
    “Take Off”
    1981
    https://youtu.be/1PAe4KzypHY
    2:44

  • Chris

    For the question on why 19 hours … and how to match a rocket orbit with the ISS orbit here’s a Smarter Every Day

    https://youtu.be/qFjw6Lc6J2g

    The maneuver is called a Hohmann Transfer and I think this answers your question.
    The information starts around the 5th minute.

  • Chris Lopes

    @Max,
    Dr. Gerard K. O’Neill suggested something similar with the Space Shuttle external fuel tanks in The High Frontier. It wouldn’t have cost that much fuel-wise, and you’d have all that pressurized space to work with. In any case, my guess is Musk would prefer to make the second stage as reusable as the first and may get around to it someday if Starship development doesn’t get in the way.

  • Chris Lopes: The whole point of Starship is to make the second stage resuable. Starship in fact is the second stage, designed to return to Earth and be reflown. The only way that development can “get in the way” is if it fails.

  • Chris Lopes

    @Robert Zimmerman
    That makes more sense and fits with how Musk is doing things. I thought (obviously incorrectly) Starship was for deep space applications only.

  • Andrew_W

    Edward_2: Why does it take 19 hours for the Dragon to catch up to the ISS?

    The Smarter Every Day video from Chris was useful but I think didn’t quite tell the whole story.

    The orbit of the ISS has an inclination of about 52 degrees, Cape Canaveral is 28 degrees north of the equator, the ISS orbit is essentially in a fixed plane with the Earth rotating below it, twice a day Cape Canaveral will pass through the plane of that orbit, so under the path of the ISS. When it’s under that path is the only time that a rocket can launch into that orbital plane. At Cape Canaveral only on one of those two daily passes under the orbital path can a rocket launch (on the other it would have to launch towards the North West rather than South West).

    Rarely will the ISS be in the right part of it’s orbit for a quick rendezvous, hence the spacecraft has to chase the ISS down by entering a lower, faster, orbit, in that correct orbital plane, and catch up with it as described in the video.

  • Andrew_W

    On board the Capsule Endevour
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XgY4NKoT9SQ
    [7:43]

    And I got my directions all mixed up, launch was to the North East.

  • Richard M

    Brendan,

    “Why isn’t Elon spicing this up with mars colonization, or asteroid mining, or something that gets kids enthused.”

    Given the tussles he had with Bridenstine last year over concerns that SpaceX’s focus was not sufficiently on Crew Dragon, it’s been pretty obvious that Elon has made a big adjustment to stay ruthlessly “on message” until DM-2 was in the bag. Notice how quickly he parried Tim Dodd’s interview question about Dragon XL the other day, for example.

    And NASA remains (for now) SpaceX’s biggest and highest profile customer. It’s hard to say he’s wrong in this kind of message discipline, however much we know he desperately would rather talk about his plans for Mars. And frankly, what his company achieved today is big enough news by itself.

  • Richard M

    They sort of resemble stagehands, but the numbers on the back will make them stick out.

    My guess is that the numbers are a security measure, too, given that they’re all wearing masks that most obscure their faces That would make it harder for anyone to try to infiltrate the ground team.

    But then again, it could be that the numbers featured into the suits long before the COVID19 outbreak.

  • HMCS(FMF) ret

    Alan SHepard looked up at his Mercury Redstone rocket before his launch in 1962 – there’s video of it on the ‘net.

  • wayne

    HMCS(FMF) ret–
    Thanks for that, I’ll search for it.

    President Trump delivers remarks after SpaceX, NASA launch
    https://youtu.be/lBWtotlQf70
    31:22

  • wayne

    here we go….
    at approximately the 4:45 mark if I’m not mistaken.

    Mercury Redstone 3 –
    “The Flight of Freedom 7 and Alan Shepard”
    assembled by ‘lunarmodule5’
    https://youtu.be/6MIVb1LMJg0
    32:03
    (This is very well put together.)

  • wayne

    Elon Musk SpaceX Demo 2 Post Launch Press Conference
    https://youtu.be/M68oYJSYXWQ
    56:28

  • wayne

    (last one)

    President Trump watches the NASA SpaceX Mission
    The HILL.TV
    https://youtu.be/tiKA8i2hGIU
    8:59
    -wherein the President reveals he talks to Musk “all the time.”
    >Yow, the left is going to turn on Musk, even more than they have been recently.

    tangential rambling– In 2016 I thought it would be 1968 all over again, but it looks like 2020 is 1968 again, in some respects.
    ( rioting & looting in Grand Rapids, Michigan last night. Looked to be a bit of antifa opportunism going on. )

  • commodude

    I literally teared up a little as that bird left the pad. The last launch I paid this much attention to was the Challenger, as one of the teachers in my high school was on the short list to be on the launch.

    Incredible to see capitalism take the lead, and long overdue.

  • Chris

    Andrew-W thanks for the additional input the Smarter Every Day did not cover.

    One note is that I THINK due to the inclination differences you mention the track will be a sinusoid. On many “mission control” walls you see the same type of sinusoidal track. I think this is why – different inclinations. This implies the launch windows as well – easier to catch with an aligned intersection. A faster rocket could avoid this I suppose but would waste fuel.

    This is as much a question as my observation. Please correct if I’m off here.

  • Andrew_W

    Chris, the orbit is a simple ellipse*, the sinusoid appearance of the track above earths surface is due to the Earth rotating about 18 degrees during each orbit the ISS makes. The reason the ISS is in an approx 52 degree inclined orbit is so it can be launched to from more northerly sites like The Baikonur Cosmodrome which is at 46 degrees North. to get to from a location (without prodigious use of propellant) the ISS’s orbit needs to pass over the launch site.

    * Not actually that simple because the orbit will experience nodal precession, but I understand the ISS’s nodal precession period is about 2 months, so not the reason for the sinusoid appearing track.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nodal_precession

  • Andrew_W

    I think I confused things a bit there: The reason the sinusoid travels is due to the Earth’s rotation, sorry.

  • Scott M.

    Successful docking, they’re about to enter the ISS!

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