NASA, SpaceX and Boeing Set to Launch American Astronauts From Kennedy

American Astronauts prep for Launch - Courtesy SpaceX

By DONNA BALANCIA

American astronauts will be launching from Kennedy Space Center on Wednesday May 27 for the first time since Shuttle Atlantis in 2011, bringing a shot of hope to a Coronavirus-weary public.

NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley arrived in Florida and are preparing for their Demo-2 mission to the International Space Station aboard a Falcon 9 rocket. They are set to lift off from historic Launch Pad 39A at 1:33 P.M. PT.  May 30 is the alternative launch date.

The astronauts are expected to arrive at the ISS on Thursday, May 28.

NASA, SpaceX and Boeing are teaming up for the Commercial Crew Program, a public private partnership to send humans into low-Earth orbit. The astronauts will connect to the ISS via the SpaceX Crew Dragon, the cargo version of the Dragon capsule has made successful connections to the ISS.

The CCP project which has had its share of challenges, moves on and Los Angeles companies SpaceX and Boeing are confident for the best outcome. NASA is trusting SpaceX and Boeing with its most precious astronauts.

Of course, one of the smaller, but celebrated details of the mission is the “Worm” logo making its first appearance since it was retired from use in 1992.

The Worm is back - Courtesy SpaceX
The Worm is back – Courtesy SpaceX

Boeing has had a relationship with NASA since the Apollo days and SpaceX, founded in 2002, has picked up the slack since the end of the shuttle program.  The SpaceX Dragon made history in 2012 to be the first privately owned spacecraft to send cargo to the ISS.

The astronauts, Behnken and Hurley, have both been into space, with Hurley flying on the final flight of Atlantis. Atlantis is on display at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.

Falcon rollout - Courtesy Bill Ingalls:NASA
Falcon rollout – Courtesy Bill Ingalls:NASA

There’s a lot at stake for all besides the safety of the crew members. If Demo-2 is a success, NASA is expected to make Crew Dragon the certified company for the flights to the ISS.

Is there any additional preparation for the astronauts because of the COVID-19 pandemic? Astronauts typically go into quarantine and in this case, Behnken and Hurley entered quarantine on May 13. But it’s most important the crew arrives at ISS healthy to keep their colleagues aboard the ISS safe as well.

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon spacecraft made the quarter mile trip from the historic Vehicle Assembly Building at KSC to the Launch Complex 39A on Thursday and a test firing of the Merlin main engines was expected for Friday.

Falcon 9 - Courtesy NASA: Bill Ingalls
Falcon 9 – Courtesy NASA: Bill Ingalls