FLORIDA — In a joint mission between SpaceX and NASA, on Wednesday, May 27, the Falcon 9 was set to launch Crew Dragon’s second demonstration mission at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. But due to unfavorable weather conditions within their flight path, the launch has been postponed to take flight on Saturday, May 30 at 3:22 PM EDT.
NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley will be onboard SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft conducting tests on the functionality of the ship. Behnken will serve as the joint operations commander, being in charge of the rendezvous of the crew, which includes the docking and undocking of the Dragon from the International Space Station. Hurley will be the spacecraft commander being responsible for the launch, landing and recovery.
The launch is the final test for the spacecraft to complete in order to validate the crew’s transportation system as well as the launch pad, rocket, spacecraft and operational capabilities.
Launching from the Kennedy Space Center, the crew will hurl into outer space at a speed of 17,000 mph towards the ISS, closely monitoring the flight. In about 24 hours, Crew Dragon will be unable to dock with the space station and conduct further tests on the spacecraft along with other space station crew.
The duration of the mission has to be yet determined depending on the readiness of the next commercial crew launch, but the autonomous ship by NASA requirement is capable of staying in orbit for 210 days. Once the mission is complete, the crew will undock from the ISS to start deorbiting the earth. Following their descent, the crew will land just off of Florida’s Atlantic Coast to be picked up by a SpaceX vessel.
If completed, the Crew Dragon will be the first capable ship to carry crew and cargo to space and will be certified for long-duration missions, setting the groundwork for continued research and further exploration of the Moon and Mars. This would also kickstart NASA’s Artemis Program, which seeks to land the first woman and next man on the moon by 2024.
SpaceX had completed a prior demo launch into space in March 2019. In January of this year, they conducted a test of the Dragon’s launch escape capabilities in the event of an emergency. Neither mission had NASA astronauts on board.
It will be the first time an American vehicle will carry NASA astronauts to space since 2011.