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

Katie Ramirez
June 1, 2020

The mission's extension permits Hurley and Behnken to assist swap out the station's batteries, a process that requires an out of doors spacewalk the present USA resident on the ISS, Chris Cassidy, couldn't do alone.

The Dragon spacecraft, which can carry seven passengers and significant cargo, will be launched into space by SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket.

Everything is a "go" for SpaceX's upcoming Commercial Crew program launch from Kennedy Space Center in Florida, set for Wednesday afternoon.

If all goes as planned, the Falcon 9 will light up its engines at 4:33 p.m. ET (1:33 p.m. PT), kicking off what's expected to be a 19-hour flight to the space station.

In March, SpaceX teams at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida and Hawthorne, California, along with NASA flight controllers in Mission Control Houston, executed a full simulation of launch and docking of the Crew Dragon spacecraft, with NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley in SpaceX's flight simulator.

After years of NASA's Commercial Crew program partners working feverishly to deliver a crew-capable spacecraft for the space agency, we're about to see the first launch of astronauts from USA soil since the end of the Space Shuttle program. A crucial decision point will come at T-minus-45 minutes, when the go-ahead is due to be given for arming the Dragon's launch escape system and fueling up the Falcon 9 rocket with highly refined kerosene and liquid oxygen.

"We're burning down the final paper", Kathy Lueders, manager of NASA's commercial crew program, told reporters during a teleconference.

The Crew Dragon pod for this test run is created to last in orbit for 110 days, but Behnken and Hurley will return to Earth when another commercial crew is able to travel to the ISS.

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Bob and Doug completed a dress rehearsal Saturday, ahead of the launch attempt Wednesday.

The duo will become members of the Expedition 63 crew and perform further tests on the Crew Dragon along with other tasks related to the space station.

"It certainly has been trending better over the last day or two for launch weather", said Mike McAleenan of the weather squadron. There was a 60 percent chance of bad conditions. The disease is caused by the coronavirus.

Both of them will dock at the ISS after nineteen hours where an American and two Russian waiting for them.

-42:00 - Crew access arm retracts.

-05:00 - Dragon transitions to internal power.

-01:00 - Propellant tank pressurisation to flight pressure begins.

SpaceX's recovery ship, called Go Navigator, will be waiting nearby to retrieve the duo and ferry them to Cape Canaveral.

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