- NASA and SpaceX are set to make history by launching astronauts from U.S. soil for the first time since the Space Shuttle era.
- The mission will take NASA astronauts Douglas Hurley and Robert Behnken to the International Space Station for a stay of up to several months.
- This is the last step for SpaceX before Crew Dragon is certified for use by NASA.
NASA’s first attempt to launch American astronauts from US soil in almost a decade fizzled out before it could even begin on Wednesday. The launch of the SpaceX Crew Dragon was called off with just minutes to go due to poor weather conditions, forcing the space agency to push the launch to Saturday.
Now, as before, we’ll have to cross our fingers and hope that the launch can proceed as scheduled. The weather looks roughly the same as it did prior to the Wednesday launch attempt, suggesting that we may be in store for another last-second decision on whether or not to send SpaceX’s Falcon 9 and Crew Dragon skyward.
The launch will be lived streamed on various platforms including NASA TV on YouTube and Twitch. The stream is scheduled to begin at 11:00 a.m. EDT, though the actual launch won’t take place until 3:22 p.m. EDT. You can watch the pre-launch coverage and the event itself via the embedded YouTube window below.
When the time finally comes, we’ll see a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carry a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule skyward. The spacecraft is destined for the International Space Station where it will deliver NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley. The duo will remain on the space station for somewhere between a few weeks and a few months, depending on what NASA decides after they arrive.
The fact that SpaceX is facilitating this first crewed launch from US soil since the Space Shuttle era comes as a bit of a surprise, at least to those who favored Boeing and its Starliner to beat Elon Musk’s company to the punch. NASA hired both companies to develop crew-capable spacecraft, and early estimates suggested Boeing was better-equipped to fulfill NASA’s demands.
That didn’t happen… at all. Boeing’s had a rough couple of years, and its recent failure to send the Starliner to the ISS without a crew aboard ensured that SpaceX would have the opportunity to send a crewed mission first. Meanwhile, Boeing still has to complete that unmanned mission before NASA will allow its astronauts to set foot inside the Starliner.
With the weather still not a 100% sure thing, there’s still a reasonable chance that the mission will have to be delayed yet again. If that happens, the backup launch window is Sunday. If the Saturday launch is called off, that backup window will be used and NASA and SpaceX will have to go through the entire process once more. We’ll be crossing our fingers that that doesn’t happen.