SpaceX rocket blasts off on historic private crewed flight

Pablo Tucker
May 31, 2020

Barring weather or other unforeseen problems, the 24-story-tall SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket is due to lift off at 3:22 p.m. ET, propelling astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken aloft on a 19-hour ride to the International Space Station. "Today we once again proudly launch American astronauts on American rockets-the best in the world-from right here on American soil".

About 12 minutes after departure, the Crew Dragon separated from the Falcon 9 rocket's first and second stage boosters and continued its journey to the ISS.

Hurley, 53, and Behnken, 49, NASA employees under contract to fly with SpaceX, are expected to remain at the space station for several weeks, assisting a short-handed crew aboard the orbital laboratory.

He also flew to the Kennedy Space Center on Wednesday before the launch was postponed at the last minute because of bad weather.

Currently, NASA relies on Russia's Soyuz vehicle to ferry astronauts to the ISS. It will also mark the first time in almost a decade the USA has launched American astronauts from US soil, ending an expensive reliance on Russian Federation for seats to space.

The hatch is closed and astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken are "settled in" ahead of the SpaceX Demo-2 liftoff, according to NASA.

"I would be lying to you if I told you I wasn't nervous, " NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said.

"It's just the beginning. many more things to come", Trump said, pointing to the launch of the Space Force.

The president watched the launch from the rooftop observation deck of the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Sharing their final message before lift off, mission control said, "Know that we're with you, have an incredible flight, and enjoy those views of our fantastic planet".

Elon Musk'sSpaceX is due to undertake a repeat attempt at launching two Americans into orbit from Florida, in a mission that would mark the first spaceflight of Nasa astronauts from U.S. soil in nine years. I thought it was so important to be here today.

Meanwhile, presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden also congratulated NASA, SpaceX and "all the hardworking women and men who made today a victory for American innovation and persistence".

"That was a lovely sight to see and I hope you all enjoyed it", Mr Trump said after the launch.

NASA previously said the mission "lays the groundwork" for future exploration of the Moon and Mars - in part by farming out low-orbit operations to contractors like SpaceX.

A SpaceX capsule exploded on the test stand a year ago.

Companies that received initial funding for developing spaceships that could serve as space taxis included Blue Origin, Boeing, Paragon Space Development Corporation, Sierra Nevada Corporation, and United Launch Alliance. At 04:55 p.m. EDT (01:55 p.m. PDT), the astronauts will take control of Crew Dragon for the first of two manual flight tests created to show that astronauts can take control in the event of a system's failure. The Dragon 2 class of vehicles includes Crew Dragon, which is now certified to stay in orbit for up to 110 days, and a cargo vehicle, Cargo Dragon. "It did not seem likely at the time when we arrived at the astronaut office ... so I think we're living the dream".

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