The mission that will launch on Wednesday is officially "Demo-2", or the second flight demonstration of Crew Dragon, and the first with crew on board.
Nasa is developing its own space launch system (SLS) rocket for its Artemis program, an ambitious $35bn project meant to return humans to the moon by 2024 and pave the way for missions to Mars by the mid 2030s. The work was completed and the rocket returned to the vertical position later in the day. Once a launch window opens, often there is a certain amount of time where a rocket can delay and still accomplish its mission.
Forecasters put the odds of acceptable weather at 40%. Crew Dragon, sitting atop the 23-story-tall Falcon-9 rocket, will join the ranks of Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, and the Space Shuttle, that is if all goes according to plan. "This is a serious issue", he said.
"We have to make sure we stay away from triggered or natural lightning events that come with those different types of clouds", Fontenot said.
These small engines - called the Draco thrusters - allow the capsule to orient itself during the mission and adjust its orbit if necessary.
If the launch is successful, the astronaut duo will spend about 19 hours orbiting Earth before attempting to rendezvous and dock at the space station at 11:29 a.m. ET Thursday. "I'm going to get out there, but I want anybody who can, from whatever place they are going to be, to do that, too". Japanese astronaut Noguchi Soichi will travel on that flight.
Behnken and Hurley are slated to lift off at 4:33 p.m. ET from Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida.
Born in St. Anne, Missouri, Bob Behnken has a doctorate in mechanical engineering from the California Institute of Technology and was a flight test engineer with the U.S. Air Force before joining NASA.
In particular, NASA intends to send astronauts back to the Moon in 2024 as part of Project Artemis, which will require the completion of the Space Launch System (SLS) or the services of domestic launch providers.
"Remember, this is a test flight. The highest priority is to test the vehicle and get it home safely, and be prepared to launch Crew-1", Bridenstine said. With no human-rated US-made spacecraft in the pipeline, NASA had to rely on the only other space agency capable of sending humans into space - Russia's Roscosmos.
SpaceX Demo-1 performed flawlessly on launch and arrival to the International Space Station back on March 2, 2019.
After being encouraged on the call by Lueders to arrange favorable weather for launch day, McAleenan chuckled and quipped that the 45 Weather Squadron was in the weather sales business, not production. The length of time the Demo-2 mission remain at the ISS has yet to be determined.
Astronauts Behnken and Hurley have been in quarantine since 13 May and will be tested for coronavirus twice before they leave for the ISS.
In 2005, then-NASA Administrator Mike Griffin's vision was that once companies had mastered cargo flights to the ISS, they should go on to develop the capability to launch humans. "But this is a test flight".
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The road to this upcoming launch wasn't easy, as the company was set behind after a capsule exploded during a test in April 2019. This test mission to help prove the systems meet NASA's requirements for certification to carry astronauts to the ISS and back.
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