NASA adding new television views for SpaceX crew launch

EDITOR’S NOTE: Updated to reflect a scrub of the May 27 launch attempt.

The convoy carrying astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken is seen in the background behind SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket on pad 39A during a dress rehearsal Saturday, May 23. Credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky

NASA’s live television coverage of the first human spaceflight to take off from the Kennedy Space Center in nearly nine years will include features familiar to launch viewers, and new camera views to document the historic flight of astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken to the International Space Station.

If everything goes according to plan, NASA could broadcast live views inside the Crew Dragon spacecraft showing the astronauts during their ascent into orbit on top of a Falcon 9 rocket, according to Paul Wizikowski, NASA’s creative director and executive producer for the NASA TV launch broadcast.

NASA has rarely broadcast such interior views live during a launch, but Russia’s space agency routinely shows in-cabin video during live broadcasts of Russian Soyuz launches.

“We do have an interior camera shot that is available should all the right elements line up for its use,” Wizikowski told Spaceflight Now.

The NASA TV coverage begins at 11 a.m. EDT (1500 GMT) Saturday, and will be viewable live in our Mission Status Center.

Weather permitting, liftoff of the Falcon 9 rocket from pad 39A is scheduled for 3:22 p.m. EDT (1922 GMT) Saturday. A launch attempt Wednesday was called off due to bad weather.

“From a broadcast standpoint, we’re drawing from a lot of the traditions and expectations from our shuttle days,” Wizikowski said. “Our goal is to find ways to celebrate this moment, celebrate it for the American taxpayer, the American public, and along with our partner in SpaceX.

“So this is a joint broadcast with SpaceX and NASA together walking people through the operations, as well as providing context and insight about what’s going on, so that people understand it,” Wizikowski said in na interview with Spaceflight Now.

NASA and SpaceX officials will anchor the broadcast from SpaceX’s headquarters in Hawthorne, California, at the launch site at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, and at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, home to the International Space Station’s mission control team.

The broadcast will include video of the astronauts putting on their SpaceX-made white launch and entry pressure suits and walking out of the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building at Kennedy. Hurley and Behnken will board a Tesla Model X for the 20-minute drive to the launch pad, passing by the Kennedy Space Center press site and the iconic Vehicle Assembly Building on the way to pad 39A.

Once at the pad, the astronauts will ride an elevator to the 265-foot-level, where they can use a phone to call their families one more time before launch. They will walk across a 50-foot-long crew access arm, where a half-dozen members of SpaceX’s closeout crew will help the astronauts through the hatch into the Crew Dragon spacecraft.

Cameras inside the suit-up room, outside the Operations and Checkout Building, and a chase car running parallel to the Tesla Model X will provide live views of the astronauts’ activities. Then a network of cameras on the tower at pad 39A will show the crew members as they prepare to board the spacecraft.

This view inside Firing Room 4 at NASA’s Launch Control Center at the Kennedy Space Center shows a video monitor, where astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley are visible in the crew access arm at pad 39A Saturday. Credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky

“There are mounted cameras SpaceX has in the tower as well as in the white room,” Wizikowski said. “They will also have a handheld camera that’s roaming to get extra shots as needed. There’s a camera inside the Dragon that we will use to show the ingress and show the crew as they’re prepping and running through their checks. We’ll certainly have a lot of the standard cameras in terms of pad shots.

“We’re looking to add some cameras in places that may not be expected. In the suit-up room, we’ve added two cameras that are mounted and remote-controlled in the suit-up room, so you’ll have the standard shoulder-mounted camera with a gentleman who’s been in quarantine with them,” Wizikowski said. “We’ll also have two fixed cameras, so you can kind of cut around the suit-up room.”

“At the back door for the walkout, you’ll have the standard, very iconic shot of them walking down that ramp and turning the corner to their transport vehicle,” Wizikowski said. “But we’ll also have a camera at the back of the alley behind the families and behind the media, elevated on a track and it will be able to dolly back and forth to give us a new angle that we have not seen before.”

During the convoy route … we’ll have a vehicle thats running northbound in the southbound lanes, parallel to the crew convoy, to get a camera angle that’s just following along with them, trying to supplement a lot of the roof shots that we typically get,” Wizikowski said.

NASA says Grammy Award-winning singer Kelly Clarkson will also perform “The Star-Spangled Banner” during the pre-launch coverage.

NASA spokesperson and commentator Dan Huot will host the launch broadcast from SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California. He will be joined by Jessie Anderson and John Insprucker, SpaceX engineers and commentators who regularly anchor the company’s launch webcasts.

NASA’s Marie Lewis, SpaceX’s Lauren Lyons and former astronaut Leland Melvin will provide commentary from the Kennedy Space Center.

After the launch, NASA’s Huot, Gary Jordan, Leah Cheshier and Courtney Beasley will provide commentary from Hawthorne and Houston through the Crew Dragon’s flight to the International Space Station. SpaceX’s Kate Tice, Siva Bharadvaj, and Michael Andrews will join the NASA team in the coverage.

Assuming launch occurs Saturday, the Crew Dragon capsule is scheduled to dock with the International Space Station at 10:29 a.m. EDT (1429 GMT) Sunday. Hurley and Behnken will open hatches and enter the station around 12:45 p.m. EDT (1645 GMT), where they will be welcomed by station commander Chris Cassidy and Russian crewmates Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner.

NASA TV will provide live coverage of the mission from the start of the crew’s suit-up activities at Kennedy, until after they are welcomed aboard the International Space Station the day after launch.

Email the author.

Follow Stephen Clark on Twitter: @StephenClark1.