NASA and Alabama cheering for SpaceX today as astronaut launch nears

James Marshall
May 28, 2020

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket was due to lift off at 4:33 p.m. EDT (2033 GMT), launching astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken on a 19-hour ride aboard the company's newly designed Crew Dragon capsule to the International Space Station.

Today's test launch is one of many in recent years, and will see NASA astronauts Douglas Hurley and Bob Behnken go on a two to three month test mission, during which the astronauts will work as full-time International Space Station crew.

The SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule will take off from Launch Pad 39A, the same facility used by Neil Armstrong and the Apollo crew for their historic voyage to the moon. President Obama's administration created the Commercial Crew program to support commercial space and provide a way for America to reach the space station after the shuttle program ended.

NASA hired SpaceX and Boeing in 2014 to transport astronauts to the space station, after commercial cargo shipments had taken off. Development of SpaceX's Dragon and Boeing's Starliner capsules took longer than expected, however, and the USA has been paying Russian Federation to launch NASA astronauts in the interim.

The mission, labelled as Demo-2, seeks to once again allow the United States to send humans into space by demonstrating that SpaceX can safely ferry astronauts to the ISS and back.

If SpaceX does not launch Wednesday, the next try would be on Saturday.

It's the final step in certification needed to operate long-term manned missions to space.

On Wednesday, an American-built rocket will blast American astronauts from American soil for the first time in almost a decade.

SpaceX is serving as the mission management, and while NASA's control specialists could intervene, Bridenstine said, SpaceX's launch directors will be making the key determinations whether to go at the T-minus 6 hour, 4 hour and 45 minute marks.

On Tuesday evening the agency said there was a 60pc chance of favourable weather at the planned launch time.

While NASA sought a cost-effective way to get astronauts into space, private space transportation companies like SapceX and Blue Origin began testing methods to lower the cost of space travel - including reusable rockets.

SpaceX has had to prove that their capsule design was safe.

The road to this upcoming launch wasn't easy, as the company was set behind after a capsule exploded during a test in April 2019.

Wednesday's scheduled SpaceX launch from Kennedy Space Center is important and noteworthy for so many reasons. This will be the first crewed launch of the Dragon and an opportunity to test its systems in orbit.

Hurley, 53, a former fighter pilot in the U.S. Marine Corps, also flew twice to space.

Musk and Bridenstine, wearing protective face masks due to the coronavirus pandemic, were present at the building to join the two astronauts, who did not wear face masks.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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