The United States is back in the business of human spaceflight after a 24-story-tall SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon crew capsule carrying two NASA astronauts blasted off from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley, both veterans of shuttle missions, will join their NASA colleague Chris Cassidy already aboard the International Space Station (ISS), 250 miles above Earth after docking on Sunday, May 31. “It’s absolutely our honor to be part of this huge effort to get the United States back in the launch business,” Hurley said from the flight deck moments 1 lift-off.
It was also the first launch of astronauts from US soil since the retirement of NASA’s space shuttle fleet in 2011.On May 27, the first launch attempt was called off just under 17 minutes before lift-off time when “surface electrical field” conditions near the launchpad made it too dangerous to attempt the flight.
On May 27, the first launch attempt was called off just under 17 minutes before lift-off time when “surface electrical field” conditions near the launchpad made it too dangerous to attempt the flight. Boeing Co, producing its own launch system in competition with SpaceX, is expected to fly its CST-100 Starliner vehicle with astronauts aboard for the first time next year. NASA has awarded nearly $8 billion to SpaceX and Boeing combined for development of their rival rockets.
This was the first spaceflight of NASA astronauts from US soil in nine years. The launch pad was the same one used by NASA’s final space shuttle flight, piloted by Hurley, in 2011. Since then, NASA astronauts have had to hitch rides into orbit aboard Russia’s Soyuz spacecraft. NASA chief Jim Bridenstine has said resuming launches of American astronauts on American-made rockets from US soil is the space agency’s top priority.
Boeing, the aerospace behemoth that had been by NASA’s side since the dawn of the Space Age, was considered the favorite to fly first. But it stumbled when the test flight of its Starliner spacecraft encountered trouble almost immediately upon reaching orbit. Boeing and NASA officials scrambled to fix software problems that prevented the spacecraft from reaching the space station and instead ending the mission early.
In 2014, NASA awarded contracts to Boeing and SpaceX, worth $8 billion combined, to design and build spacecraft capable of flying astronauts to the station. Previously, it had hired the private sector to fly cargo and supplies there.Boeing Co, producing its own launch system in competition with SpaceX, is expected to fly its CST-100 Starliner vehicle with astronauts aboard for the first time next year. NASA has awarded nearly $8 billion to SpaceX and Boeing combined for development of their rival rockets.
SpaceX engineers were at the consoles, they gave the final word for launch, and they’ll be the ones communicating with the astronauts on their journey to the space station.This launch brings SpaceX closer to that vision, or at least closer to convincing the public that the company could someday pull off such a feat.
But SpaceX can bask a little bit in this milestone, knowing it beat a longtime NASA contractor that, for younger commercial companies in the industry, represents an old way of space travel. If the mission goes well, the next
If the mission goes well, the next crew will fly in August, and SpaceX could start selling seats on the capsule to other customers beyond NASA. The astronauts know they are stewards of what SpaceX hopes is the first of many flights.
NASA has set the rules for keeping the astronauts safe from start to finish, and the agency made the call that SpaceX was ready to launch. This is the first time that Americans have flown on a brand-new spacecraft since 1981. If something goes wrong, NASA will have to answer for its contractor.
The first passengers of this flight, Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken, are seasoned spaceflight veterans, with four flights on America’s space shuttles between them . Hurley and Behnken were tested for COVID-19 at least twice before they launched, and have spent several weeks in quarantine.
SpaceX is working on a solo space effort, a spaceship designed to deliver dozens of people to Mars. That launch day is likely years away, but, after losing four prototypes, SpaceX can now say that it has experience launching the most precious cargo off of Earth.
""This day is one for the history books, countless hours from dedicated professionals from NASA and SpaceX.""