For the first time since 2011, NASA is launching American astronauts from the U.S., on domestic Falcon 9 rockets from SpaceX, according to a tweet from NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. The first flight is scheduled for May 27.
BREAKING: On May 27, @NASA will once again launch American astronauts on American rockets from American soil! With our @SpaceX partners, @Astro_Doug and @AstroBehnken will launch to the @Space_Station on the #CrewDragon spacecraft atop a Falcon 9 rocket. Let's #LaunchAmerica 🇺🇸 pic.twitter.com/RINb3mfRWI— Jim Bridenstine (@JimBridenstine) April 17, 2020
NASA to Launch American astronauts from US
Bridenstine took to Twitter to announce the groundbreaking development: "On May 27, @NASA will once again launch American astronauts on American rockets from American soil! With our @SpaceX partners, @Astro_Dough and @AstroBehnken will launch to the @Space_Station on the @CrewDragon spacecraft atop a Falcon 9 rocket."
The mission, called Launch America, was detailed in a NASA press release published on Friday.
UPDATE April 17, 1:00 PM EDT: NASA's Launch America
Nearly ten years in the making, NASA is set to launch the first crewed mission to rocket into orbit from U.S. soil since the space shuttle was retired in 2011.
Onboard the Dragon will be NASA astronauts Dough Hurley and Bob Behnken — shuttle program veterans — who will ride at the top of a Falcon 9 rocket from pad 29A, at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. This is the same historic launch facility that the final space shuttle made its last launch.
Liftoff on May 27 is scheduled for roughly 4:32 PM EDT, when the Earth's rotational position places the launch pad beneath the orbital plane of the International Space Station.
"Once in orbit, the crew and SpaceX mission control will verify the spacecraft is performing as intended by testing the environmental control system, the displays and control system and the maneuvering thrusters, among other things," said NASA in a Friday update.
The Crew Dragon will fire Draco thrusters to rendezvous and dock with the International Space Station the day following the launch.
"The spacecraft is designed to do this autonomously but astronauts aboard the spacecraft and the station will be diligently monitoring approach and docking and can take control of the spacecraft if necessary," said NASA.
If the launch goes according to the May 27 schedule, Crew Dragon and the space station will dock at roughly 11:29 AM EDT, on May 28, according to NASA.
UPDATE April 17, 1:15 PM EDT: Crew Dragon Astronauts Training, NASA Administrator confident
As of writing, astronauts Behnken and Hurley are in training for the test flight, called Demo-2, and are slated to live and work aboard the space station for several months. Later, they'll undock and make a return flight to Earth, with a parachute-assisted splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean, just east of Florida.
The Demo-2 test flight with live astronauts closes a decade-long push to design, develop, and qualify SpaceX's Crew Dragon for piloted missions to space. Crew Dragon's first successful mission was launched in March 2019, when it launched without astronauts aboard to the space station, and returned to Earth without issue.
SpaceX also recently completed two major tests of Crew Dragon's launch escape system that serves as a fail-safe way to push the capsule away from a potentially exploding Falcon 9 rocket during launch-pad fueling, or even mid-flight.
Last week, Bridenstine said he felt "fairly confident," that the Crew Dragon would be ready to take astronauts to the space station near the end of May, or early June, reports Space Flight Now.
As the world faces unprecedented global challenges, it's inspiring to see the U.S. space program make great strides to a future of scientific exploration and international cooperation, in the 21st century.
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