In July 2011, NASA’s space shuttle Atlantis launched from Florida to the International Space Station. It was the last time humans traveled to space from US soil. The long drought should soon be over as SpaceX prepares to send two NASA astronauts to the ISS inside a custom-built Crew Dragon capsule. This mission passed a critical contingency review and the launch is scheduled for Wednesday, May 27.
The mission, known as Demo-2, has had. With however, NASA and SpaceX are finally ready to fly. We̵
Demo-2: The basics
Demo-2 is part of, which involves two commercial space airlines, SpaceX and Boeing, which builds and launches crew capsules intended to ferry astronauts to and from the ISS.
SpaceX has a history of launches of cargo and payloads, but this will be the company’s first time sending people off this rock.
When: The launch is scheduled for Wednesday, May 27 at 2 p.m. 1:33. PT / 4: 33 p.m. ET.
If the weather does not cooperate or any other factor interferes, SpaceX has reserved launch times for 12:22. PT / 3: 22 p.m. ET on Saturday, May 30, or at noon PT / 3 p.m. ET on Sunday, May 31.
Where: The Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon capsule will blast off Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The historic launch pad has previously hosted Apollo and the space shuttle.
Why: NASA’s Commercial Crew program aims to end US reliance on Russian spacecraft to ferry astronauts to the ISS. NASA has been buying seats on Soyuz capsules since the end of the shuttle program.
This is also part of a broader drive from NASA for commercial partnerships. “By encouraging the industry to provide human transport services to and from low Earth orbit, NASA can expand its focus on building spacecraft and rockets for deep space missions,” the space agency said.
Spaceship: SpaceX Crew Dragon is the human transport version of the Dragon 2 capsule that has been used to transport cargo to the ISS. While only two astronauts will be on board at the end of May, the canister can be configured to accommodate seven passengers.
rocket: SpaceX’s proven Falcon 9 rocket will escort the Crew Dragon through the launch. NASA’s iconic cast. Falcon 9s has successfully launched dozens of SpaceX missions.
The Falcon 9 booster is reusable and will try to land on a SpaceX drone ship stationed in the Atlantic.
crew: NASAback in 2018. Both have been in space on various shuttle missions, with Hurley flying on the final flight of the space shuttle Atlantis 2011. They .
The goal: If SpaceX passes designs during Demo-2, NASA will certify the Crew Dragon for regular flights back and forth to the ISS. The space agency is already looking forward to this result and has done so, which can be launched before the end of the year if all goes well.
NASA announced on May 22 that the Demo-2 had approved its review of air preparedness and was cleared to leave.
How to watch the Demo-2 mission live
NASA will provide streaming coverage of prelunches, launches and ISS docking activities via NASA TV. The time of launch will depend on good weather conditions both at the launch site and offshore where the crew capsule would be splashed in the event of an emergency during launch.
The prelaunch coverage begins at 9:15 am PT on May 27 before scheduled 1:33 p.m. PT lift time. NASA TV will provide continuous coverage from launch to docking. Crew Dragons arrival at ISS is at 08:29 PT on Thursday 28 May. SpaceX will also provide a launch webcast.
SpaceX founder Elon Musk tweeted on May 22 that he would watch the incident from mission control in Florida. Musk described the mission as the culmination of a truly incredible amount of work by SpaceX and NASA engineering, together with support from all international space station countries.
Discovery and the Science Channel will offer a different view of the proceedings with their Space Launch Live event beginning at 11am. The lineup includes singer Katy Perry and YouTube star and former NASA engineer Mark Rober along with both past and current NASA astronauts. “Our live specials offer incredible access for launch and expert insight from SpaceX founder and chief engineer Elon Musk and other senior aerospace and flight personnel,” Discovery said in a May 20 release.
NASA sees the SpaceX Demo-2 mission as the dawn of “a new era of human space flight.”
NASA awarded the original commercial crew program contracts to SpaceX and Boeing in 2014 with an eye to launching astronauts in 2017. Delays are common during spacecraft development and both SpaceX and Boeing received their share of hiccups. Boeing is still working through a series ofat the end of 2019.
SpaceX howeverin early 2019 and , sets the scene for Demo-2. It is called Demo-2 because it is still, technically, a “demonstration” rather than a complete space mission. It marks the final test for SpaceX and its Crew Dragon capsule and allows Elon Musk’s space airline to achieve human-rated certification of its spaceship.
Demo-2 will also be the first time a two-person crew is launched from the United States since the space shuttle Columbia left for space, on the program’s fourth mission in 1982.
Meet the astronauts
Behnken and Hurley entered the preflight quarantine on May 13. Prelunch quarantine was already standard procedure before the coronavirus pandemic, but NASA will add some extra steps to the process. “Hurley and Behnken, like those in direct, close contact with the crew, will be tested twice for the virus as a precaution,” NASA said in a statement in May.
Bob Behnken: NASA selected Behnken, an experienced Air Force pilot, as an astronaut in 2000. He most recently visited space on a shuttle mission in 2010. He has spent 708 hours in space, with 37 of them taken up by space walks.
Behnken tweeted on May 12 that he had to get approval from his young son before launch.
Doug Hurley: Hurley, a retired Marine, was also selected as an astronaut in 2000. He was a veteran of two space missions and was most recently in orbit in 2011 on NASA’s final shuttle mission. It adds some poetry to Hurley’s mission to Demo-2. He was one of the last astronauts to be launched from US soil and will be one of the first to do so again.
Hurley shared his own son’s drawing by Crew Dragon in late April.
NASA has not yet determined exactly how long Behnken and Hurley will remain on the ISS. “They will perform tests on the Crew Dragon in addition to conducting research and other tasks with the space station crew,” NASA said. The astronauts return to the Crew Dragon and splash down into the Atlantic where they will be greeted by a SpaceX recovery ship.
May 27 will mark an important milestone in space history. It’s not just about the patriotic overtones to launch American astronauts from American Earth with an American rocket.
SpaceX and NASA are set to pick up a lost thread in human spaceflight, which fills the void left by the space buses. We’re pretty good at sending robotic explorers to far-flung places in the solar system, but the stakes are always higher when human lives are involved. The world will be watching.