In July 2011, NASA’s space shuttle Atlantis took off from Florida to the International Space Station with four astronauts on board. It was the last time humans had entered space from American soil. The long drought is soon to end as SpaceX prepares to send two NASA astronauts to the ISS in a specially designed Crew Dragon capsule on May 27.
The mission, known as Demo-2, was originally scheduled to launch in 2019, but has. But , NASA and SpaceX are finally ready to fly. We’ve gathered everything you need to know about the historic launch and when and where you can log in, below.
Demo-2: The basics
Demo-2 is part of, which involves two commercial space flight companies, SpaceX and Boeing, which build and launch crew pods designed to transport astronauts to and from the ISS.
SpaceX has a history of cargo launches and payloads, but it will be the first time the company has sent humans out of this rock.
When: The launch is scheduled for Wednesday, May 27 at 1:33 p.m. PT (4:33 p.m. ET)
Or: The Falcon 9 rocket and the Crew Dragon capsule will take off from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The historic launch pad has already hosted Apollo missions and space shuttles.
Why: NASA’s commercial crew program aims to end the United States’ dependence on Russian spacecraft to transport astronauts to the ISS. NASA has purchased seats on Soyuz capsules since the end of the shuttle program.
It is also part of a larger NASA effort for business partnerships. “By encouraging industry to provide human transportation services to and from the low Earth orbit, NASA can expand its focus on building spacecraft and rockets for space missions,” said l space agency.
The spaceship: The SpaceX Crew Dragon is the human transport version of the Dragon 2 capsule that was used to transport goods to the ISS. While only two astronauts will be on board at the end of May, the capsule can be configured to carry up to seven passengers.
The rocket: SpaceX’s proven Falcon 9 rocket will escort Crew Dragon during launch. NASA’s iconic return. The Falcon 9 have successfully launched dozens of SpaceX missions.
The Falcon 9 booster is reusable and will attempt to land on a SpaceX droneship parked in the Atlantic Ocean.
The crew: NASAin 2018. The two have been in space on various shuttle missions, with Hurley flying on the last flight of the space shuttle Atlantis in 2011. They .
The goal: If SpaceX is successful in demo-2, NASA will certify Crew Dragon for scheduled round-trip flights to the ISS. The space agency is already considering this result and has, which could be launched before the end of the year if all goes well.
How to watch the Demo-2 mission live
NASA will provide streaming coverage of ISS pre-launch, launch and docking activities via NASA TV.
Pre-launch coverage begins at 9:15 a.m. PT on May 27 before 1:33 p.m. Take-off time PT. NASA TV will provide continuous coverage from launch to docking. Crew Dragon’s arrival at the ISS is scheduled for 8:29 a.m. Pacific Time, Thursday, May 28.
NASA views the SpaceX Demo-2 mission as the dawn of a “new era in human spaceflight”.
NASA awarded the original commercial crew program contracts to SpaceX and Boeing in 2014 to launch astronauts in 2017. Delays are common in the development of spacecraft, and SpaceX and Boeing have encountered their share of hiccups. Boeing is still working on a series ofend of 2019.
SpaceX, however,early 2019 and , setting the stage for Demo-2. This is called Demo-2 because it is still, technically, a “demonstration” rather than a full-fledged space mission. It marks the final test for SpaceX and its Crew Dragon capsule and will allow Elon Musk’s spaceflight company to obtain human certification for its spacecraft.
Demo-2 will also be the first time a two-person crew has been launched from the United States since the Columbia space shuttle’s departure for space during the program’s fourth mission in 1982.
Meet the astronauts
Behnken and Hurley went into preflight quarantine on May 13. Pre-launch quarantines were already standard procedure before the coronavirus pandemic, but NASA will add a few more steps to the process. “Hurley and Behnken, as well as those in direct and close contact with the crew, will be tested twice for the virus as a precaution,” NASA said in a May release.
Bob Behnken: NASA selected Behnken, an experienced Air Force pilot, as an astronaut in 2000. He last visited space in 2010 on a shuttle mission. He spent 708 hours in space, 37 of which were spacewalks.
Behnken Tweeted May 12 that he had to get his young son’s approval before launch.
Doug Hurley: Hurley, a retired Marine, was also chosen as an astronaut in 2000. A veteran of two space missions, he was in orbit for the last time in 2011 during the last mission of the NASA shuttle. This adds poetry to Hurley’s assignment to Demo-2. He was one of the last astronauts to take off from American soil and will be one of the first to do so again.
Hurley shared his own son’s drawing of Crew Dragon at the end of April.
NASA has yet to decide exactly how long Behnken and Hurley will stay on the ISS. “They will be testing the Crew Dragon in addition to conducting research and other tasks with the space station crew,” said NASA. The astronauts will return to Crew Dragon and dive into the Atlantic where they will be greeted by a SpaceX recovery vessel.
May 27 should mark an important milestone in the history of space. It’s not just the patriotic overtones of launching American astronauts from American soil with an American rocket.
SpaceX and NASA are about to take a lead in human space flight, filling the void left by the retirement of space shuttles. We are good enough to send robotic explorers to places far from the solar system, but the stakes are always higher when human lives are involved. The world will watch.