Spaceflight Insider

Astronaut Douglas Hurley to serve as Demo-2 spacecraft commander


Doug Hurley, flight commander of Crew Dragon Demo-2, the first spacecraft to launch from US soil in nine years. Photo Credit: NASA

NASA astronaut Douglas Gerald Hurley flew on the last crewed mission to launch from American soil 11 years ago, and fittingly, will serve as spacecraft commander of Crew Dragon Demo-2, the first crewed flight to resume launches from the US.

Demo-2 is scheduled to launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida, to the International Space Station (ISS) on May 27 with a crew of two–Hurley and joint operations commander Robert L. Behnken. Both took part in STS-135 on Atlantis, the last space shuttle flight, which launched on July 8, 2011.

Hurley, age 53, was born in Endicott, New York. He earned a Bachelor of Science in civil engineering from Tulane University in Louisiana and was a distinguished graduate of the school’s NROTC program and of the Marine Corps Officer Candidates’ School. Upon graduation from Tulane, he was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Marine Corps, beginning a 24-year career in the US Marines.

Following graduation, Hurley attended the Basic School and the Infantry Officers Course in Quantico, Virginia. He then attended aviation indoctrination at the Naval Air Station in Pensacola, Florida, and graduated with distinction from the US Navy Pilot Training program. In 1991, he became a Naval Aviator.


Hurley trained on the F/A-18 Hornet combat jet after completing training with the Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 101(VMFAT-101) at Marine Corps Station in El Toro, California. Assigned to the Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (All Weather) 225 (VMFA (AW)-225), he deployed to the western Pacific three times and attended numerous trainings, including the US Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Instructor Course; the Marine Division Tactics Course, and the Aviation Safety Officers Course at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, CA.

Chosen to attend the US Naval Test Pilot School at Naval Air Station in Patuxent River, Maryland, Hurley was assigned to the Naval Strike Aircraft Test Squadron (VX-23) as an F/A-18 project officer and test pilot at the end of 1997 following a year of training.

The first Marine pilot to fly the F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet, Hurley logged a total of 5,500 flight hours in over 25 types of aircraft.

Doug Hurley on the mid-deck of the space shuttle Atlantis, 2011. Photo Credit: NASA

In July 2000, Hurley was selected as a NASA astronaut. After training for two years, he was given technical duties in the Astronaut Office and served as lead Astronaut Support Personnel (ASP) for two shuttle missions, STS-107 in 2003, and STS-121 in 2006.  He subsequently traveled to Star City, Russia, where he served as NASA director of operations at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center.

Hurley was the pilot on the space shuttle Endeavour for STS-127, which launched in July 2009 and carried equipment to the International Space Station (ISS), a mission that lasted over 15 days. Two years later, he took part in STS-135, a mission that lasted slightly under 13 days and studied the option of refueling spacecraft robotically.

Following that flight, Hurley was appointed Assistant Director for New Programs at the Johnson Space Center‘s Flight Crew Operations Directorate (FCOD). He became the Assistant Director of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program in August 2014.

One of the first astronauts selected to train for NASA’s Commercial Crew program in July 2015, Hurley trained with both Boeing and SpaceX on their commercial crew vehicles, alongside Behnken, Eric Boe, and Sunita Williams, also chosen for the program. Assigned to the first test flight of SpaceX‘s Crew Dragon in 2018, he conducted an In-Flight Abort test and was subsequently designated flight commander.

Both Hurley and his fellow crew member and good friend Behnken have logged thousands of hours as pilots of supersonic jets.

“You’re more of a monitor of all the systems, and you’re not using all your brainpower to actually fly the vehicle,” he said, noting the Crew Dragon‘s autonomous capabilities. Last year, the spacecraft conducted an un-crewed test flight.

“The vehicle has manual capability in several phases, and we will certainly test that out,” he added.

Hurley, who is married to fellow astronaut Karen Nyberg, with whom he has one son, has received numerous awards during his career. These include Magna Cum Laude from Tulane University; Distinguished Graduate of the US Marine Corps Officer Candidates School; Distinguished Graduate of Tulane University‘s NROTC program; Distinguished Graduate of US Navy Pilot Training; Stephen A. Hazelrigg Memorial Award for best Test Pilot/Engineer Team, Naval Strike Aircraft Test Squadron; the Legion of Merit; the Defense Superior Service Medal; the Defense Meritorious Service Medal; the Meritorious Service Medal; two Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medals; the 2014 Tulane University Distinguished Alumni Award, and other medals for his service.

In 2004, 2005, 2006, and 2007, Hurley received the NASA Superior Accomplishment Award.

SpaceX’s Crew Dragon undergoes final testing at Cape Canaveral. Photo Credit: SpaceX


Laurel Kornfeld is an amateur astronomer and freelance writer from Highland Park, NJ, who enjoys writing about astronomy and planetary science. She studied journalism at Douglass College, Rutgers University, and earned a Graduate Certificate of Science from Swinburne University’s Astronomy Online program. Her writings have been published online in The Atlantic, Astronomy magazine’s guest blog section, the UK Space Conference, the 2009 IAU General Assembly newspaper, The Space Reporter, and newsletters of various astronomy clubs. She is a member of the Cranford, NJ-based Amateur Astronomers, Inc. Especially interested in the outer solar system, Laurel gave a brief presentation at the 2008 Great Planet Debate held at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab in Laurel, MD.

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