- NASA and SpaceX are about to launch a historic mission to the International Space Station from U.S. soil for the first time in roughly a decade.
- The launch will be live-streamed on NASA TV across all of its platforms.
- This is the last step in the Commercial Crew program before SpaceX’s Crew Dragon can be certified by NASA.
After years of NASA’s Commercial Crew program partners working feverishly to deliver a crew-capable spacecraft for the space agency, we’re about to see the first launch of astronauts from U.S. soil since the end of the Space Shuttle program. The launch of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon is officially a “go” right now, and it is expected to take place on Wednesday, May 27th, at 4:33 p.m. EDT.
It’s an incredibly important milestone not only for NASA but for SpaceX as well. It will be the first time a SpaceX craft will take to the skies with humans on board, and assuming all goes well, it will be the start of a new era in NASA manned spaceflight.
For years now, NASA has been forced to rely on others to send its astronauts into space. That means paying big bucks for seats aboard Russian spacecraft that were headed for the International Space Station. It worked well and ensured the United States had a continued presence in space, but it wasn’t ideal for NASA.
The launch of the Commercial Crew program meant NASA could hire outside help in the form of SpaceX and Boeing. Boeing’s Starliner was expected to be the first to meet all of NASA’s milestones, but the company quickly fell behind its rival. SpaceX’s Crew Dragon matured much faster than the Starliner, which has yet to actually make it to the International Space Station without any crew aboard.
SpaceX passed that milestone months ago, and is now ready for the final test. The mission that will launch on Wednesday is officially “Demo-2,” or the second flight demonstration of Crew Dragon, and the first with crew on board. It’s the final step before NASA certifies Crew Dragon as being ready to haul astronauts into space on a regular basis. NASA veterans Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley will be the first to fly in the spacecraft. Both men were selected by NASA to become astronauts in 2000.
It’s still unclear exactly how long the men will remain aboard the International Space Station. NASA wants to get some real scientific work done during the mission, which means allowing the astronauts to remain in space longer. SpaceX would probably like to wrap the mission up as rapidly as possible, as Crew Dragon can’t be fully certified until it returns the astronauts safely to Earth.
In any case, it’s going to be an exciting day.