SpaceX Launch America
Wednesday, May 27, 2020
Officials postponed the launch of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule and Falcon 9 booster 17 minutes before the scheduled launch time because of lightning near Kennedy Space Center in Merritt Island, Fla.
NASA’s next launch attempt will be at 3:22 p.m. EDT on Saturday, May 30, from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
The historic launch will be the first time that NASA astronauts have flown to the orbiting lab in a commercially built spacecraft. It will also be the first time that human passengers are launched into orbit from the U.S. since NASA retired its space shuttle fleet in 2011.
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket is due to take off from launchpad 39A – the same one the Apollo astronauts used to get to the moon – with the Crew Dragon space capsule on top of it. It is a demonstration of the new “taxi” service NASA has agreed to buy from Musk’s firm.
Billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk’s rocket company, SpaceX, is just hours away from becoming the first-ever commercial entity to launch humans into orbit and then take them to the International Space Station (ISS).
Using $100 million of his PayPal payout, Musk founded SpaceX back in 2002, predating his Tesla car company by more than a year. As the story goes, Musk wanted to put plants on Mars, but it was too expensive to acquire the rockets to do so. So he started his own company, SpaceX, to see if he couldn’t get those costs down. In early years, the venture seemed destined for failure: Between 2006 and 2008, the first three launches of its privately funded Falcon 1 rocket failed. But the fourth SpaceX rocket succeeded later in 2008, and the fifth carried a satellite into orbit in 2009.
After this — and with some funding from NASA — SpaceX accelerated development of the Falcon 9 which first took flight in 2010. This two-stage rocket powered by nine Merlin engines has now launched 83 times, carrying cargo including satellites into orbit and supplies to the International Space Station (ISS). It’s failed just twice: once in flight in 2015 and once on the launch pad in 2016. It’s the first and only orbital rocket that’s partially reusable, which significantly cuts down on operating costs.
Behnken and Hurley were among the first astronauts to begin working and training on SpaceX’s next-generation human space vehicle and were selected for their extensive test pilot and flight experience, including several missions on the space shuttle.
Behnken will be the joint operations commander for the mission, responsible for activities such as rendezvous, docking and undocking, as well as Demo-2 activities while the spacecraft is docked to the space station. He was selected as a NASA astronaut in 2000 and has completed two space shuttle flights. Behnken flew STS-123 in March 2008 and STS-130 in February 2010, and he performed three spacewalks during each mission. Born in St. Anne, Missouri, he has bachelor’s degrees in physics and mechanical engineering from Washington University and earned a master’s and doctorate in mechanical engineering from California Institute of Technology. Before joining NASA, Behnken was a flight test engineer with the U.S. Air Force.
Hurley will be the spacecraft commander for Demo-2, responsible for activities such as launch, landing and recovery. He was selected as an astronaut in 2000 and has completed two spaceflights. Hurley served as pilot and lead robotics operator for both STS‐127 in July 2009 and STS‐135, the final space shuttle mission, in July 2011. The New York native was born in Endicott but considers Apalachin his hometown. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering from Tulane University in Louisiana and graduated from the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School in Maryland. Before joining NASA, he was a fighter pilot and test pilot in the U.S. Marine Corps.
If all goes as planned, it will be a relatively uneventful trip. After takeoff, the spacecraft will reach Earth orbit in 12 minutes, when the Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon capsule separate. The Falcon 9 rocket will return to Earth, where it’s supposed to land on a drone ship. The Crew Dragon capsule will remain in orbit for 19 hours before docking with the International Space Station (ISS). The astronauts will stay on the ISS for one to four months, then head back to Earth on the same Crew Dragon capsule that took them to space.