As you doubtless know, Wednesday’s historic launch of the SpaceX rocket and crew vehicle was postponed due to what NASA refers to as “weather violations,” which are conditions that automatically call for a mission to be scrubbed. The new launch date, Saturday at 3:22 pm EDT is on still on track but runs the risk of weather cancellation once again. Weather prognosticators are giving the launch a less than 50/50 chance of going off as planned.
The astronauts, NASA’s Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken, will be the first astronauts to head to space from American soil since July 8, 2011, the date of the last Space Shuttle launch.
For excellent coverage of the launch, including great content for hours in advance of it, you can tune in here.
The reason for the great excitement over this launch other than that it’s the first in many years, is that SpaceX, a private company, was in charge of designing and building everything from the spacesuits to the crew vehicle. And while it will be the first non-governmental U.S. human space launch, the mission will originate, just as all other U.S. launches have, at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, Florida.
The mission is technically a demonstration, but don’t tell that to the astronauts. The launch will carry them to low-earth orbit and a docking with the International Space Station (ISS). The length of their stay aboard the ISS hasn’t yet been set. When it is time to head back home, the astronauts will re-enter in the crew capsule returning for an ocean landing via parachute descent, just as it’s been done since Gemini days.
The two astronauts are NASA veterans. Hurley will serve as spacecraft commander. He served as pilot and lead robotics operator for both STS-127 and STS-135, the latter of which was the final Space Shuttle mission.
Behnken, who flew on STS-123 in 2008 and STS-130 in 2010, will serve as joint operations commander.