First Commercial Mission to Carry Humans into Orbit Returns Crewed Launches to U.S.
Camarillo, CA and Rockledge, FL (June 3, 2020) — Saalex Corp. played a key role supporting the historic launch of the SpaceX Crew Dragon Demo-2, helping to usher in a new era of commercial space flight. Saalex’s Expendable Launch Vehicle Integrated Support 3 (ELVIS 3) team provided programmatic, engineering and technical support leading up to and during the launch on May 30 at 3:22 p.m. EDT from the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida. The Crew Dragon is the first commercially built and operated U.S. spacecraft to take humans into orbit.
The Crew Dragon Demo-2 module Endeavor carried NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley to the International Space Station, successfully docking with the station’s Harmony module on Sunday, May 31. The mission not only represents a watershed moment for commercial space flight, it is the first crewed orbital launch from the U.S. since the final Space Shuttle mission in 2011.
Originally slated for May 27, the launch had to be delayed due to weather concerns related to Tropical Storm Bertha. More than 150,000 gathered on Florida’s Space Coast Saturday to watch the lift off, including U.S. President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence.
In the run-up to the launch, NASA touted the mission’s significance: “NASA’s Commercial Crew Program (CCP) will return human spaceflight launches to U.S. soil, providing safe, reliable, and cost-effective access to low-Earth orbit and the space station on systems that meet safety and performance requirements.”
Following the launch, Saalex President and CEO Travis Mack thanked the ELVIS 3 team for their hard work and dedication in support of the CCP mission. “First and foremost, I have to express my sincere gratitude to our Saalex ELVIS 3 team,” Mr. Mack said. “They have been and continue to be extremely important to our growth within NASA-supported missions and they are an extremely important part of Saalex as a whole. As we continue to grow our brand with NASA, we are establishing our credentials as a viable industry player for upcoming NASA support. It’s a select group of organizations that have the honor of supporting NASA and we are fortunate enough as a company to be part of that.”
“I’m extremely proud and honored to be supporting an event that is historic both from a national perspective and from what it will represent to larger history of our exploration of space,” Mr. Mack continued. “This moment will never happen again. There will never be another first commercial space launch to put astronauts into orbit. I feel an extreme sense of honor and pride be here at this moment and that we get to play some role in it. It’s almost overwhelming.”
Saalex’s ELVIS 3 team provided critical program and technical integration services to CCP in support of certification of flight readiness. In prepping for the launch, the ELVIS 3 team also supported the CCP Chief Engineer and the engineering launch team. Saalex personnel provided critical engineering technical integration support to the CCP Chief Engineer and the launch team on console the day of the launch from KSC.
“We’re honored to support NASA’s Commercial Crew Program,” said Saalex ELVIS 3 Program Manager Kathleen Wilcox. “The work they’re doing to get our nation back to launching American astronauts from American soil on American rockets is nothing short of incredible. Our ELVIS 3 CCP team continues to amaze me!”
“I think it is a tremendous accomplishment for SpaceX, the space program, NASA and the country,” said Saalex Corp. Director of Program Operations, Robert Bezduch. “I am just happy that Saalex was part of this effort.”
The successful Crew Dragon launch validates several new technologies for human spaceflight, illustrated by the autonomous return of the Falcon 9’s first-stage booster, which landed on the drone barge Of Course I Still Love You in the Atlantic Ocean shortly after launch. Bezduch said the excitement generated by the launch and these new technologies harkens back to a time before space missions seemed routine.
“I remember when I was a kid, when something like this happened everything would stop,” Bezduch said. “We were all in awe. At school, we would have the TV on in classrooms to watch the launch. We’ve gotten away from that.”
“This kind of mission shows what we are capable of as a country,” Bezduch continued. “Having Saalex be a part of ELVIS 3 at this time in the history of the space program is a tremendous honor and opportunity. Any time an organization is involved in a historic event such as this, it can catapult them into the future to do this on an even larger scale. It’s an amazing field to be in and Saalex is ready for the next challenge, whether supporting another contract or as a prime contractor.”
Saalex is currently teaming with a.i. solutions on the ELVIS 3 contract, providing integrated services in preparation and launch of NASA’s next generation of scientific and exploration spacecraft for the agency’s Launch Services Program (LSP) and Commercial Crew Program (CCP). The ELVIS 3 team supports launches at KSC in Florida, Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, and other NASA launch sites.