NASA and SpaceX confirm SpaceX’s first ever astronaut launch is a ‘go’

Elon Musk is wearing a black tee-shirt and speaking into a microwave at a public event

NASA astronauts complete dress rehearsal for groundbreaking SpaceX launch

(Gregg Newton/AFP via Getty Images) A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the company's Crew Dragon spacecraft onboard is seen on the launch pad at Launch Complex 39A during a brief static fire test ahead of NASA's SpaceX Demo-2 mission at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida on May 22, 2020.

Douglas Hurley and Robert Behnken, the NASA astronauts who will ride to orbit in the Crew Dragon, attended a series of technical briefings and spent time with their families on the eve of their historic launch, a flight marking the resumption of US astronaut flights after almost a decade. The duo will then continue to test the Crew Dragon, in addition to scheduled tasks and research responsibilities aboard the ISS.

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.

"If the weather gods are working with us", Koenigsmann said, "liftoff will occur at 4:33 p.m. SpaceX has a split-second launch window".

"And we're continuing to make progress towards our mission". In the event that there is a problem, Behnken and Hurley will take control of the spacecraft. Once in orbit, the crew and SpaceX mission control will verify the spacecraft is performing as intended by testing things such as the environmental control system, the displays and the manoeuvring thrusters. Once it reaches the ISS, it will dock, undergo pressurization, and Behnken and Hurley will enter the station. After re-entering Earth's atmosphere, the spacecraft will splashdown off the coast of Florida, where it will be retrieved by SpaceX's Go Navigator recovery vessel and returned to Cape Canaveral.

NASA also hopes the commercial crew ships will be used by Boeing and SpaceX to carry private citizens, whether "space tourists" or private-sector researchers, into space in a bid to open up low-Earth orbit for commercial development, including non-government space stations.

SpaceX and NASA will be paying close attention to the weather between now and Wednesday, and since this is a highly sensitive mission with actual astronauts on board the spacecraft, you can bet that they'll err on the side of caution for scrubbing the launch if weather isn't looking good.

Behnken will be the joint operations commander for the Demo-2 mission, charged with overseeing the rendezvous, docking, and undocking maneuvers.

"We're continuing to tick off our pre-flight readiness checklist", said Kathryn Lueders, program manager for NASA's Commercial Crew Program, at a news conference on Monday.

Hurley and Benhken inside the Crew Dragon capsule.

Unfortunately, this same capsule was lost on April 20th, 2019, during a series of uncrewed test firings created to test the Super Draco engines.

Mr Musk named his rocket after the Star Wars Millennium Falcon and the capsule's name stems from "Puff the Magic Dragon" - Mr Musk's jab at those who doubted him when he started SpaceX in 2002.

This mission will be the final developmental milestone for the Crew Dragon before NASA's Commercial Crew Program certifies it for operational, long-duration missions to the ISS. Since 2017, the year Commercial Crew should have launched, NASA has shelled out more than $1bn to send USA astronauts to the ISS, according to a NASA inspector general report. Similarly, NASA intends to build the Lunar Gateway in orbit of the Moon and establish infrastructure on the lunar surface. All of this will require heavy-launch and crew-launch capability from United States soil.

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