Timeline of Crew Dragon, image of Bob and Doug on the walkway to the spacecraft at LC39A

Crew Dragon Launch Day Timeline: From Suit Up to Docking with the ISS

Video by Tim Dodd, the Everyday Astronaut. Web Version by Austin DeSisto.

NASA has a new ride to the International Space Station for its astronauts and it’s SpaceX’s Crew Dragon Capsule. So I wanted to give you a super quick rundown of the exact timing of the events a crew heading to the ISS will go through on launch day. All the way from suit up to docking to the station.

I’m not going to go over the Falcon 9 rocket or the Crew Dragon Capsule, if you need a rundown on that, I’ve already got a video going into the exact hardware here comparing it to NASA’s other new commercial ride, the Boeing Starliner. Check the description for a link to that and an article version of this video for future reference.

Mission Timeline Video

Countdown and Launch Timeline

Hr/Min/Sec

 Event

– 04:59:59 
The Dragon Capsule aligns its inertial measurement units and is configured for launch
– 04:30:00
The Crew Dragon hypergolic fuels for reaction control thrusters and the superdraco abort motors are pressurized for flight
– 04:15:00
The Crew hears a weather briefing before they suit up
– 04:05:00 
The Crew is officially handed off from NASA to SpaceX, which is bit of a formality signifying the astronauts are officially in SpaceX’s hands
– 04:00:00 
The crew suits up at Kennedy Space Center’s Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building
– 03:22:00 
The crew leaves the building and gets into the NASA and SpaceX’s Tesla Model X crew transportation vehicles. In other words, the crew gets suited up and ready to go in just 38 minutes, which is faster than most of us get ready for work in the morning
– 03:15:00
The crew departs the Ops and checkout building and heads the 13.6 km (8.5 miles) to historic Launch Complex 39A
– 02:55:00   
The crew arrives at the pad. Since they will travel about 13.6 km in 20 minutes, it means they’ll only average around 40 km/h COME ON, they should turn on ludicrous mode and really put on a show!
~ 02:40:00 
The crew will do the ultimate walk across the Crew Access Arm, hopefully in slow mo so we get some awesome cinematic footage
– 02:35:00 
The crew enters the Dragon
– 02:20:00 
Communications check between the crew and the ground
– 02:15:00 
The seats rotate up putting the astronauts more on their backs and closer to the screens and controls
– 02:14:00 
They check for leaks in the suits and verify they’re good to go
– 01:55:00
The hatch is closed up and the ground support crew leaves the pad
– 01:10:00
The exact state and location of the International Space Station is uploaded to the Dragon Capsule
– 00:45:00
The Go / No-Go Poll is taken to fuel up the vehicle
– 00:42:00 
The Crew Access Arm is retracted
– 00:37:00
Dragon launch escape system is armed, which gives the crew the ability to abort from the rocket if there were a problem during fuel up or during ascent
– 00:35:00
 The RP-1 rocket fuel and the cryogenic liquid oxygen begin loading into the first stage of the rocket and RP-1 is loaded into the second stage
– 00:35:00 
1st stage LOX loading begins
– 00:16:00
The Liquid oxygen begins filling the second stage
– 00:07:00
Falcon 9 begins engine chill prior to launch
– 00:05:00
Dragon transitions to internal power
– 00:01:00
Command flight computer to begin final prelaunch checks
– 00:01:00
Propellant tank pressurization to flight pressure begins
– 00:00:45
SpaceX Launch Director verifies go for launch
– 00:00:03
Engine controller commands engine ignition sequence to start
– 00:00:00
Falcon 9 Liftoff

Launch, Landing, and Dragon 2 Deployment

Hr/Min/Sec

Event

00:00:58
Max Q (moment of peak mechanical stress on the rocket)
00:02:30
1st stage main engine cutoff (MECO)
00:02:34
1st and 2nd stages separate
00:02:36
2nd stage engine starts
00:07:12
1st stage entry burn
00:08:43
2nd stage engine cutoff (SECO-1)
00:08:45
1st stage begins its landing burn as it prepares to land on the autonomous spaceport drone ship
00:09:09
1st stage landing
00:12:00
Crew Dragon separates from 2nd stage
00:12:46
Dragon nosecone open sequences begins
00:49:06
After a few check outs of the draco reaction control thrusters and a few pointing maneuvers, there’s a phase burn of 16.11 m/s to align the orbits of the Dragon and the international space station
09:44:44
There’s another phase adjustment burn
11:10:15
The Dragon Capsule performs a 44.2 m/s burn using its draco thrusters to boost its orbit closer to the International Space Station
11:55:01
There’s another burn, this time of 57.89 m/s which circularizes the orbit
17:40:24
After a few mid course burns, the Crew Dragon is approaching the 400m keep out sphere and requires a Go / No-Go poll from Mission control to continue
17:50:24
The Dragon Capsule enters the keep out sphere and hits Waypoint Zero which is 400m below the ISS
18:15:24
The Dragon Capsule arrives at Waypoint 1 and holds approximately 220m away to align to the docking axis
18:51:24
A final Go / No-Go Poll is given for docking
18:56:24
The Dragon Capsule arrives at Waypoint 2 which is only 20m away and gets placed into a short hold
19:01:24
The Dragon capsule departs Waypoint 2 and goes in for the docking
19:06:24
the Dragon Capsule has contact and capture with the International Space Station
19:06:25
A big sigh of relief from the crew and Mission Control, the Dragon is docked and the crew has officially arrived at the International Space Station!

Weather Launch Criteria

Falcon 9 launching a Crew Dragon
Click on the image to see the criteria.

There are several weather criteria that need to be nominal for the Falcon 9 to launch with a Crew Dragon. First, there is the local weather around Cape Canaveral, and outwards to 370 km northeast. On top of that, there are 50 downrange abort locations along the eastern coast of North America and off the coast of Ireland.

Weather in the abort zones could cause a scrub on launch day. Downrange weather is monitored by the 45th Space Wing Weather Squadron in consultation with the Department of Defense Human Space Flight Support (HSFS) Office Rescue Division. Abort zone weather scrubs happened occasionally during the Space Shuttle as well. For details of all the weather criteria, click on the image to the right. For the latest launch weather, see the daily forecast issued by the 45th Weather Squadron.

Dragon Docking to the ISS SIM

So there you have it folks! Nice and easy huh? Well you can actually try the docking yourself by going to iss-sim.spacex.com and see if you can do the final docking maneuver yourself! It’s no Kerbal Space Program but it is pretty fun!

Let me know if you liked this video and if you want another one for reentry and landing and if you want me to do a similar video when crew rides Boeing’s Starliner for the first time.

Let me know if you have any other questions in the comments below and be sure and stick around because I have TONS more videos coming out that will help you understand all this cool stuff as we enter a new era of human spaceflight!

13 comments
  1. Thanks for the great webpage! I wonder what time I need to “tune in“ in order to catch most of the activities before the lunch. I see it’s about 4 to 5 hours before, when things start but I don’t know what time it will be then. I don’t see the actual time of the launch.

    1. Hello! This is just the timeline of launch activities. For MUCH more mission specific information and other details see the Prelaunch Preview written by Trevor Sesnic: https://everydayastronaut.com/dragon-2-dm-2-spacexs-first-crewed-mission/. Some news stations such as ABC and CBS are beginning their broadcast at around 3pm EDT. NASA TV is always live and even today has informational videos of all topics. Be sure to also tune in to our very own Tim Dodd. He will be one of the only actively answering Youtube Superchats on a stream! Let us know if you have any more questions!

  2. Serious question: are there entertainment options aboard the capsule? After the first 10 minutes, these guys are sitting in a mostly-autonomous capsule for many hours without much to do. One can only stare out the window in silence for so long. Can they put on a movie?

    1. Seriously?
      My mind would go ‘fork fork fork fork fork…’ for 19 hours until I could get out into the ISS 😀

      But seriously, they have a ton to do during that time to check, test etc.

    1. Early Soyuz (and Shuttle) missions took a few days from launch to docking, but Soyuz now does it in about six hours.

  3. Will subsequent trips take the same 19 hours of flight time…or it there added time due to the “test mission” nature of this flight? Similarly, will they always take such a long time (all the pauses, test firsts) to mate with the ISS?

    1. On future flights, Crew Dragon may attempt a rapid rendezvous. They didn’t do it this time as it was a test flight, and that kind of rendezvous would add unneeded complexity to an already busy schedule. But yes, expect Crew Dragon to do a six to eight rendezvous with the ISS a future mission. The orbital mechanics involved limit launch windows though.

    2. On future flights, Crew Dragon may attempt a rapid rendezvous. They didn’t do it this time as it was a test flight, and that kind of rendezvous would add unneeded complexity to an already busy schedule. But yes, expect Crew Dragon to do a six to eight rendezvous with the ISS a future mission. The orbital mechanics involved limit launch windows though.

  4. Yes, I’d like to see a similar video when the Boeing capsule (finally) launches.

  5. Hi there, i’m looking for the landing time of the crew dragon DM-2, does anybody know.

    Nearly a month is quit long for a demo mission, isn’t it?

    thanks in advance

    hauke

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