SpaceX's First-Ever Human Flight Delays Launch

Updated: May 28, 2020

Watch history in the making live on Saturday 30th May, as SpaceX launches its first-ever manned spacecraft! NASA and SpaceX will be launching 2 astronauts from US soil for the first time since 2011 at 8:22pm UK time, so be sure to register to watch, here. If Britons look South-West on Saturday, we should also be able to see the rocket in the sky! The launch was initially planned for 27th May but had to be scrubbed due to poor weather conditions. Let's keep our fingers crossed for good weather on Saturday!

The mission, Demo-2, is a demonstration mission for SpaceX to pass the final of NASA's certification process. If they succeed, they can go ahead with more manned missions to the space stations, as part of their contract with NASA.

What will happen?

The Falcon 9 rocket will take off at the Kennedy Space Center, Florida, with Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley on board. About 2 minutes into the journey, the rocket will separate into a first and second stage. The first stage will return to land, via the Atlantic Ocean, while the second stage continues on to space with the Crew Dragon capsule, where the astronauts will be.

Once in orbit, the second stage can detach from the capsule, leaving the capsule to travel at ~17,000mph for about 24 hours before it is in position to autonomously dock onto the International Space Station (ISS).

While in-flight, the astronauts will test the Crew Dragon's environmental control system, the displays and controls and the manoeuvring thrusters. They will also monitor the autonomous docking system during the approach to the ISS.

Once onboard the ISS, they will be joining the Expedition 63 crew who are currently on a long-term mission until October 2020. The Demo-2 mission is expected to last between 1 and 4 months before the astronauts re-enter the Crew Dragon for undocking and ISS departure.

The capsule engines will fire up to reenter the Earth's atmosphere. Once inside the atmosphere, they will deploy 4 parachutes to slow the rate of descent for a graceful and safe splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean. The recovery ship, Go Navigator, will retrieve the capsule and astronauts.

Who are the astronauts?

Douglas Hurley, an ex-fighter pilot for the US Marine Corps, was on the final flight of Atlantis in 2011 before it was discontinued. Mr Hurley will be the Spacecraft Commander, who is in charge on the launch, landing and recovery of the vehicle.

Robert Behnken, an ex-flight test engineer with the US Air Force, has spent over 29 days in space, including 37 hours spacewalking. Mr Behnken will be the Joint Operations Commander, in charge of rendezvous, docking and undocking.

The spacesuits the men will be wearing have been designed by SpaceX, with the help of Hollywood costume designer, Jose Fernandez. Flying in style!

Don't forget to catch this historic launch live on Saturday 30th May! You aren't going to want to miss it. Hopefully, the weather is on their side this time and the launch will go ahead as planned. We will be tweeting as it happens, so make sure you follow us @wonkscience.

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