In July 2011, NASA & # 39; s Space Shuttle launched Atlantis from Florida to the International Space Station with four astronauts on board. That was the last time people traveled to space from American soil. The long drought should soon be over as SpaceX prepares to send two NASA astronauts to the ISS in a purpose-built Crew Dragon capsule on Wednesday, May 27.
The mission, known as Demo-2, was originally scheduled to launch in 201
Demo-2: The basics
Demo-2 is part ofinvolving two commercial aerospace companies, SpaceX and Boeing, that build and launch capsule capsules that are designed to transport astronauts to and from the ISS.
SpaceX has a history of cargo and cargo launches, but this will be the first time people have been sent off this rock.
When: The launch is scheduled for Wednesday, May 27 at 1:33 PM. PT / 4: 33 p.m. ET.
Where: The Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon capsule will launch from Launch Complex 39A at NASA & # 39; s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The historic launch pad has previously hosted Apollo and space shuttle missions.
Why: NASA & # 39; s Commercial Crew Program aims to end the US dependence on Russian spacecraft for bringing 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 wider NASA push for commercial partnerships. "By encouraging the industry to provide human transportation services to and from Earth orbit, NASA can expand its focus on building spacecraft and rockets for deep space missions," said the space agency.
The Spacecraft: The SpaceX Crew Dragon is the human transport version of the Dragon 2 capsule used to transport cargo to the ISS. Although there will be only two astronauts on board by the end of May, the capsule can be configured to carry up to seven passengers.
The Rocket: SpaceX & # 39; s proven Falcon 9 rocket accompanies Crew Dragon during launch. NASA & # 39; s iconic throwback. Falcon 9 & # 39; s have successfully launched dozens of SpaceX missions.
The Falcon 9 booster is reusable and will attempt to land on a SpaceX droneship stationed in the Atlantic Ocean.
The crew: NASAin 2018. Both have been on several shuttle missions to space, with Hurley on the 2011 last flight of the space shuttle Atlantis flew. They .
The Target: If SpaceX succeeds during Demo-2, NASA Crew will certify Dragon for regular flights back and forth to the ISS. The space agency is already looking forward to this outcome and has assignedthat could launch by the end of the year if all goes well.
How to watch the demo -2 mission live
NASA provides streaming coverage of prelaunch, launch and ISS docking activities via NASA TV. The timing of the launch is dependent on good weather conditions, both at the launch site and in the ocean, where the crew's capsule would splash down in the event of an emergency during launch.
Launch launch begins at 7:15 PM PT on May 27 before the scheduled 13:33 PT takeoff time. NASA TV provides continuous coverage from launch to docking. Crew Dragon's arrival in the ISS is scheduled for Thursday, May 29 at 8:29 AM PT.
Discovery and Science Channel offers a different take on the events with its Space Launch Live event starting at 11 a.m.PT. The lineup includes singer Katy Perry and YouTube star and former NASA engineer Mark Rober, along with both former and current NASA astronauts. "Our live special offers both incredible launch access and expert insight from SpaceX founder and chief engineer Elon Musk and other leading aerospace professionals," Discovery said in a May 20 release.
NASA views the SpaceX Demo-2 mission as the beginning of "a new era of human spaceflight".
NASA awarded the original Commercial Crew Program contracts to SpaceX and Boeing in 2014 with a view to launching astronauts in 2017. Delays are common during the development of spacecraft and both SpaceX and Boeing have suffered their share of the hiccups. Boeing is still working on a series of.
SpaceXin early 2019 and paving the way for Demo-2. It's called Demo-2 because it's still technically a "demonstration" rather than a full-fledged space mission. It marks the final test for SpaceX and its Crew Dragon capsule and allows Elon Musk's aerospace company to achieve a human-rated certification of its spacecraft.
Demo-2 will also be the first time a two-person crew departs from the United States since the space shuttle Columbia departed for space, during the programme's fourth mission in 1982.
Meet the astronauts
Behnken and Hurley were preflight quarantined on May 13. Prior quarantines were standard procedure prior to the coronavirus pandemic, but NASA will add some additional steps to the process. "Hurley and Behnken, as well as those in direct and close contact with the crew, will be tested for the virus twice as a precaution," NASA said in a statement in May.
Bob Behnken: NASA selected an experienced Air Force pilot Behnken as an astronaut in 2000. He last visited space during a shuttle mission in 2010. He spent 708 hours in space, of which 37 included. through spacewalks.
Behnken tweeted on May 12 that he needed to get approval from his young son before launch.
Doug Hurley: Hurley, a retired Marine, was also selected as an astronaut in 2000 of two space missions, it was last orbiting Earth in 2011 during NASA's last shuttle mission. That adds some poetry to Hurley & # 39; s dedication to Demo-2. He was one of the last astronauts to launch from American soil and will be among the first to redo it.
Hurley shared the drawing of his own son by Crew Dragon at the end of April.
NASA has not yet determined how long Behnken and Hurley will remain on the ISS. "They will conduct tests on Crew Dragon in addition to conducting research and other tasks with the space station's crew," NASA said. The astronauts return on Crew Dragon and splash in the Atlantic Ocean, where they are greeted by a SpaceX salvage vessel.
May 27 marks an important milestone in space history. It's not just about the patriotic undertone of launching American astronauts from American soil with an American missile.
SpaceX and NASA will pick up a fallen wire in human spaceflight, filling the void left by the space shuttle's collapse. We are quite good at sending robot explorers to faraway places in the solar system, but the stakes are always higher when human lives are involved. The world will watch.