Musk's SpaceX set for debut astronaut mission, renewing NASA's crewed launch program

James Marshall
September 14, 2020

Dubbed Demo-2, this mission will not only see SpaceX's crewed spacecraft sent to space for the first time with astronauts aboard, it will also be the first time since 2011 (and the retiring of the Space Shuttle) that astronauts are launched from United States soil. "It was a really good review today", Norm Knight, deputy director of flight operations at the Johnson Space Center, said in a statement. "All the teams are "go". Then, it'll dock and open the hatch around 2 hours later.

SpaceX's Crew Dragon capsule is scheduled to launch with two American astronauts on Wednesday from the John F. Kennedy Space Center on Merritt Island, Florida. All of this will require heavy-launch and crew-launch capability from USA soil.

As per NASA's commercial crew program manager, Kathy Lueders, everything on the ground is going as planned, thus far.

Hurley and Behnken will board the SpaceX Dragon capsule on top of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. Last November, US Vice President Mike Pence told the two companies they had until this spring to launch astronauts into orbit. The duo will then continue to test the Crew Dragon, in addition to scheduled tasks and research responsibilities aboard the ISS.

A static fire test of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, performed on May 22.

Now, the only thing standing in the way of Wednesday's history-making launch is Mother Nature.

Days before the final test flight and first crewed flight of SpaceX's Crew Dragon capsule, Demo-2, representatives from SpaceX, NASA, and the International Space Station met for an intensive Flight Readiness Review (FRR) to determine whether or not the historic mission could proceed toward a May 27th, 2020 launch attempt. Fellow rocketeer Robert Behnken echoed that sentiment, adding that he is "so proud of the NASA and SpaceX team" and that he and Hurley "will be ready with them again on Saturday".

As it was a sole-source market, it cost NASA a cool $85.4m per seat on a Soyuz rocket.

Two US astronauts have completed a dress rehearsal ahead of their groundbreaking journey to the International Space Station in a partnership between NASA and SpaceX. The now having to rely on Russian Soyuz spacecraft to transport NASA astronauts to the ISS - and at the unfathomable cost of $US86 ($132) million per seat.

The estimated price for a Crew Dragon seat is roughly $55m, while a seat on Starliner is thought to be about $90m.

This flight demonstration comes nearly a year and a half after the first demo flight of the Crew Dragon (Demo-1). "An incredible amount of testing". This will mark the first time astronauts liftoff from Florida in nine years, and the first time they'll do so for a commercial company.

Wearing sleek new white outfits, Colonel Hurley and Colonel Behnken are expected to transfer from a white Tesla to the white Dragon capsule atop the equally white Falcon 9 rocket on Wednesday.

"I would say it's something maybe we dreamed about, flying something other than a Shuttle, the next vehicle".

Following the conclusion of both the FRR and LRR, NASA held socially-distant press conferences to inform the public of certain milestones that were accomplished during the Review.

Having a life-long interest in crewed space flight, Desforges' passion materialized on a family vacation in 1999 when he was able see the launch of Space Shuttle Discovery on STS-96. As he outlined the various weather systems and fronts which are collectively contributing to the now 40% chance that there would be a violation against the launch weather criteria, his choice of words to summarize the situation seemed fitting, given that he was talking about a mission featuring two astronauts, named Bob (Behnken) and Doug (Hurley).

The ISS was launched in 1998 and 240 individuals from 19 countries have visited it since 2000. Once aboard the ISS, Behnken and Hurley will join NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy and cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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