- SpaceX and NASA are planning the launch of the first crewed flight of Crew Dragon to the International Space Station as early as May.
- The mission will see two NASA astronauts travel to the ISS after being launched from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
- A delay in the mission is possible, especially given the current pandemic and slowdowns as NASA urges much of its workforce to work from home.
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NASA and SpaceX are targeting the launch of the first crewed mission in a SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft for mid-to-late May, according to the US space agency. The launch will be the first crewed mission into space launched from US soil since the last launch of the Space Shuttle way back in 2011.
The launch, which will take place from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, will see a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket fire the Crew Dragon to the International Space Station. Onboard the spacecraft will be NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley. The mission follows a successful uncrewed test flight of the Crew Dragon to the ISS months earlier.
NASA revealed the launch window timing in a new media release. “NASA and SpaceX are currently targeting no earlier than mid-to-late May for launch,” the release reads. “This second demonstration mission of the Crew Dragon spacecraft is another end-to-end flight test of SpaceX’s human spaceflight system, which will include launch, docking, splashdown and recovery operations. It is the final flight test of the system before SpaceX is certified to carry out operational crew flights to and from the space station for NASA.”
SpaceX’s partnership with NASA for a crew-capable spacecraft is part of the agency’s Commercial Crew program. Both SpaceX and Boeing were tasked by NASA to develop a spacecraft and launch system to deliver NASA astronauts into space without having to rely on seats aboard Russian rockets. SpaceX has been in the lead since the beginning, though both companies have seen their share of setbacks and delays.
Boeing, in particular, has regularly had to push back crucial tests and most recently had to abort a trip to the ISS with its Starliner spacecraft due to a glitch. A NASA investigation returned dozens of issues that need to be addressed before another test can be conducted, and it remains unclear when the company will be ready to launch again.
The very loose May launch window could certainly change, and given the current public health crisis sweeping the globe, it wouldn’t exactly be shocking to see the launch slip to a later date. NASA recently issued a mandate to all of its staff to work from home if possible, and at least two NASA employees have tested positive for the novel coronavirus in recent weeks.