Historic SpaceX Launch: For the first time a private company partnered with NASA and managed to send two astronauts into space. The Falcon 9 space rocket took off with two Americans aboard the Crew Dragon capsule bound for the International Space Station.
After bad weather prevented the Demo-2 mission from taking off from Cape Canaveral last week, NASA and the Elon Musk’s private aeronautical company SpaceX managed to get the rocket to take off.
The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley on board took off smoothly in a cloud of orange flames and smoke from launch pad 39A at Florida’s Kennedy Space Center for the 19-hour trip to the International Space Station.
The first manned flight from US soil since the space shuttle program ended in 2011 had originally been scheduled for Wednesday, May 27 but was delayed due to weather conditions, which also remained uncertain until takeoff on Saturday, May 30, 2020 ( 1922 GMT).
Elon Musk’s company rocket took off at 15:22 local time (19:22 GMT) from platform 39A of the Kennedy Space Center in the presence of the President of the United States, after the launch was canceled last Wednesday due to bad meteorological conditions.
Approximately At 10:29 a.m. Sunday (2:29 p.m. GTM) the Crew Dragon capsule with NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley is expected to arrive at the International Space Station (ISS) and proceed to dock with it after which will be welcomed by the crew on board.
Named “historic” by the deputy administrator of the US Aerospace Agency, Jim Morhard, the mission resends astronauts from the United States to the ISS nine years after its space shuttle program was canceled.
“We are really leading the start of the space revolution and this is something much bigger than us, but our goal is to inspire a new generation, give hope to many people who need it, and unify the country and the entire world,” said Morhard.
Since the last flight of the shuttle Atlantis into Earth orbit in 2011, NASA has been forced to use Russian launch systems such as the Soyuz to put its astronauts into orbit.
It is also the first manned of these characteristics operated by a private company because although Virgin Galactic has already carried out manned flights to space, they have been at an altitude lower than that necessary to reach the ISS.
The Demo-2 mission is part of the commercial space flight program with which NASA seeks to reduce the costs of space travel through private companies such as that of Elon Musk, founder of SpaceX. Aerospace companies Boeing and SpaceX were selected in September 2014 to design ships, rockets, and systems that allow the transport of crews from NASA to the ISS.
THE DEMO-2 MISSION
Behnken and Hurley travel to the ISS initiating a mission that will last approximately 6 to 16 weeks during which they will carry out scientific and technical research in space.
During the mission, the launch system of SpaceX is tested, the company founded by Elon Musk and Boeing obtained two government contracts in 2014 to test the commercialization of space travel.
After returning to Earth and certifying the validity of the rocket, capsule, launch, and landing system, NASA will begin conducting operational missions with the SpaceX team and Crew-1 is estimated to take off on August 30, although the date will vary based on Demo-2 mission duration.
Following this model, NASA wants to commercialize the Earth’s orbit and then go one step further and set foot on the Moon again in 2024 and, eventually, take humans to Mars in 2030.
Behnken and Hurley, veterans of two space shuttle missions each, have been in quarantine for more than two weeks and have been regularly screened by COVID-19. Today, about four hours before liftoff, the pair donned their futuristic SpaceX-designed space suits and said goodbye to their wives, both former astronauts, and their children.
Astronauts arrived at Launch Pad 39A, which was used for the historic Apollo 11 trip to the Moon in 1969, in a Model X electric car built by Tesla, one of Musk’s other companies.
After the 20-minute ride, Behnken and Hurley took the Crew Dragon capsule on top of the Falcon 9 rocket in an elevator.
Two minutes and 33 seconds after takeoff, the Falcon 9’s first-stage reusable thruster separated and began its return to Earth, where they plan to land on the Florida coast in a barge named “Of course I still love you.”
Twelve minutes after takeoff, the second stage of the rocket separated from the Crew Dragon.
Once in orbit, astronauts must complete a series of Dragon Crew checks on what is designed to be the final test flight before NASA certifies the capsule for regular crew flights.
The Dragon Crew reached the ISS in 19 hours, which is orbiting at an average altitude of 250 miles (400 kilometers) above Earth. The Dragon Crew was then independently docked with the ISS, and Behnken and Hurley joined US astronaut Chris Cassidy and Russian cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner aboard the orbiting space station.
The length of Behnken and Hurley’s stay onboard the ISS has not yet been determined, but The Dragon’s crew can spend up to 114 days in space, or 16 weeks. NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine has said they can return to Earth in early August.
After separating from the ISS, the Dragon Crew will begin their descent, splashing into the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Florida. It will be slowed by four large parachutes, the same method used for the return of NASA’s Apollo capsules, although they landed in the Pacific.