The big launch finally happens in 2 minutes. “All systems are go for tonight’s launch at 7:27 p.m. EST of Crew Dragon’s first operational mission with four astronauts on board,” SpaceX tweeted this morning. But live coverage is already streaming on SpaceX’s web site. Space.com explains it’s the first operational flight of SpaceX’s “astronaut taxi,” the Crew Dragon:
Called Crew-1, this will be the second Crew Dragon mission to carry astronauts. NASA astronauts Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover and Shannon Walker, along with Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Soichi Noguchi, will lift off from the historic Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 7:27p.m. EST (0027 GMT) to begin a six-month mission. Space.com reports that the astronauts completed their 9-mile (14 km) drive to the Falcon 9 rocket on the launch pad inside a pair of Tesla’s electric Model X SUVs. In another report, CBS News has confirmed that SpaceX “plans to reuse the booster for the next Crew Dragon flight.”
NASA is counting on the Crew-1 flight and follow-on missions by SpaceX and Boeing to end the agency’s sole reliance on Russian Soyuz spacecraft for trips to and from low-Earth orbit. NASA has spent $4 billion since 2006 buying seats aboard Soyuz spacecraft and another $6 billion to date on its Commercial Crew Program, ultimately awarding contracts to SpaceX and Boeing… With two successful test flights behind them, NASA engineers were able to certify the spacecraft after a detailed analysis of telemetry and inspections of the flight hardware. It was the first such certification since the space shuttle was being built in the 1970s and the first ever granted a commercially developed spacecraft. “I believe 20 years from now, we’re going to look back at this time as a major turning point in our exploration and utilization of space,” said Phil McAlister, director of commercial spaceflight development at NASA Headquarters. “It’s not an exaggeration to state that with this milestone, NASA and SpaceX have changed the historical arc of human space transportation… The station’s life support systems, including its water recycling equipment and carbon dioxide removal gear, have been beefed up to support a seven-member crew and additional stores and supplies have been laid in. But the U.S. segment of the station only has four crew “sleep stations” and Hopkins plans to bunk with a sleeping bag in the powered-down Crew Dragon.
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