A new era of spaceflight is upon us. The partnership between Elon Musk’s SpaceX and NASA has culminated in the launching of American astronauts from Florida to the International Space Station. The monumental event is now ready for launch after a Flight Readiness review was conducted this past Friday at Florida’s Kennedy Space Center. The manned spaceflight is an official component of the NASA Commercial Crew program.
About the Launch
The SpaceX Crew Dragon craft is scheduled to lift off by way of a Falcon 9 rocket shortly after 4:30 Eastern Standard Time on May 27. The flight will be manned by NASA astronauts Douglas Hurley and Robert Behnken. Takeoff will occur at Florida’s Launch Complex 39A, leading to a lengthy stay at the International Space Station whereupon a Demo-2 mission will be conducted. It is interesting to note the mission duration has not yet been established.
An Important Day for SpaceX
The Crew Dragon’s launch is SpaceX’s final test flight. If successful, the launch will confirm the legitimacy and reliability of SpaceX’s crew transportation system. At the moment, most of those involved in the launch have the utmost confidence in SpaceX’s rocket, launch pad, spacecraft and overall capabilities. After all, SpaceX founder Elon Musk has proven himself to be a successful in business leader and the field of engineering. However, this expedition marks the first time in history NASA astronauts will test spacecraft systems while in mid-orbit.
All Eyes are on Hurley and Behnken
The forementioned astronauts, Hurley and Behnken, are true leaders in every sense of the word. Hurley and Behnken were two of the first hopeful interstellar travelers to train and work on SpaceX’s human space vehicle. The two were chosen based on their flight and test pilot experience. Behnken worked as a flight test engineer in the Air Force prior to joining NASA. He has conducted three spacewalks during missions in ’08 and ’10.
Hurley will serve as the Demo-2 spacecraft commander, spearheading the launch as well as the ensuing landing and subsequent recovery. Hurley has also completed two flights into space. Hurley was a test pilot and fighter pilot in the Marines prior to joining NASA.
The Spotlight is Shining Bright on Florida
All eyes will be on Florida tourism once liftoff occurs from launch pad 39A. Crew Dragon is set to reach a speed of 17,000 miles per hour as it makes its way toward the International Space Station. When the craft reaches orbit, the crew will check the spacecraft to ensure it is functioning as designed, inspecting everything from the environmental control system to the displays, maneuvering thrusters and beyond.
Once the 24-hour mark of the trip is reached, Crew Dragon will be on its way to rendezvousing with the International Space Station. The craft will dock at the station in an autonomous manner with overarching monitoring performed by the two astronauts. If necessary, these two space adventurers will take control of the craft to ensure a drama-free docking.
Once docked, Hurley and Behnken will depart, making their way to the station and officially becoming the latest members of Expedition 63. The next step is to conduct testing on Crew Dragon and perform research in tandem with the crew aboard the space station. At most, the Crew Dragon will remain in orbit for 210 days. However, the length of the mission will be determined after the astronauts reach the International Space Station.
Cross your fingers and say a prayer with the hope that this space-bound expedition from Florida will go as planned, ensuring Hurley and Behnken safely depart and subsequently return without hindrance.