SpaceX counts down to historic Crew Dragon astronaut launch

The SpaceX Falcon 9 with Dragon crew capsule is serviced on Launch Pad 39-A Tuesday

It has been nearly a decade since NASA last launched astronauts into space from USA soil, but now using a SpaceX rocket, it will send a two-person crew to the International Space Station (ISS). It'll be the first time astronauts will take off from the USA since NASA's space shuttle program ended in 2011, when they started hitching rides on Russian Soyuz capsules.

Unfavorable weather conditions at Kennedy Space Center in Florida have scrubbed the first scheduled SpaceX launch; the next opportunity will come on Saturday.

It's an incredibly important milestone not only for NASA but for SpaceX as well.

"I think the on-orbit crew is definitely ready for some company, and very much looking forward to the launch this Wednesday", Kirk Shireman, manager of NASA's International Space Station Program, said.

"The Flight Readiness Review has concluded and NASA's SpaceX Crew Dragon mission is cleared to proceed toward liftoff".

As you'd expect of such a major event, the launch will be live-streamed on NASA TV, which can be found on YouTube, NASA's own website, Roku, and even Twitch TV.

What was unforeseen at the time was that in six years NASA would cease using the Space Shuttle. That means paying big bucks for seats aboard Russian spacecraft that were headed for the International Space Station. Not only will this be the very first time that a privately owned company will be sending out astronauts into space, but it will also be marked as the very first time that astronauts have actually launched from the United States after almost a decade. Since 2017, the year Commercial Crew should have launched, NASA has shelled out more than $1bn to send United States astronauts to the ISS, according to a NASA inspector general report.

Once docked with the ISS - joining the Expedition 63 crew aboard the space station - the crew will perform tests on Crew Dragon to see how it performs in orbit. Once fully operational, the Crew Dragon spacecraft would be able to last 210 days in orbit. NASA veterans Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley will be the first to fly in the spacecraft.

Wednesday's launch will be only the fifth time that NASA astronauts have launched in a new US-made vehicle.

Mike Wehner has reported on technology and video games for the past decade, covering breaking news and trends in VR, wearables, smartphones, and future tech. His love of reporting is second only to his gaming addiction.



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