Elon Musk’s SpaceX has announced that it is ready to launch its first crewed spaceflight on May 27. National Aeronautics and Space Administration, NASA has already given its final go-ahead for the crewed space fight on Friday. If the weather remains favourable, SpaceX can start a new era of commercial crewed spaceflights on Wednesday.
A SpaceX Dragon capsule atop a Falcon 9 rocket will take off from Cape Canaveral in Florida, at 4:33 pm on Wednesday. The space capsule will have two NASA astronauts, Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley on board. The docking at the International Space Station has been scheduled for 19 hours after the take-off.
The upcoming event will mark the first-ever crewed spaceflight to an orbit on a privately owned vehicle. Moreover, it would also be the first for astronauts to fly from the U.S. soil since the shuttle program ended in 2011.
It has almost been eighteen years since Elon Musk began his journey as a space entrepreneur. Elon Musk founded Space Exploration Technologies Corp. in 2002 with a mission to enable humans to live on other planets. Launching humans into orbit will be the biggest defining moment of the firm so far and also its biggest test.
NASA’s High Hopes From the SpaceX Mission
Notably, the US state space agency, NASA has also been a key partner in SpacesX’s two decades of journey. NASA awarded SpaceX and Boeing Co. a combined $6.8 billion in contracts in 2014. The US space agency hopes to revive America’s ability to fly to the orbiting lab without having to buy seats in the Russian Soyuz capsules.
NASA has already paid $3.5 billion to purchase 52 rides to space from Russia since 2011. It is hoping that the commercial spaceflight mission will take over these missions in the coming years.
However, the sudden resignation of Douglas Loverro, the former Human Spaceflight Chief at NASA just before the launch of SpaceX capsule attracted a lot of speculations on the project. Loverro’s abrupt departure left the responsibility of going ahead with the SpaceX mission on the agency’s Associate Administrator Steve Jurczyk.
The Wednesday launch is the last step for SpaceX to win NASA’s approval for regular crewed flights to the space station. Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley are scheduled to meet with the Expedition 63 crew members already in the orbiting lab on Thursday. Moreover, a press conference from the space station is also scheduled for May 29.
Several space experts and former astronauts have referred to the mission as a breakthrough for space development. The potential success of the mission may also open up further possibilities for space tourism.
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But, given the current health crisis caused by the COVID-19, NASA has discouraged people from mobbing Cape Canaveral. However, it is reportedly planning hours of programming around the #LaunchAmerica event. Furthermore, as per the news reports, President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence are also planning to attend the launch.
Yet, the weather forecast for isolated thunderstorms or rainstorms can delay the SpaceX mission to May 30, 2020.