NASA has set a May 27 launch date for the first crewed test of the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft. The mission will carry two NASA astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) for “an extended stay.”
The announcement of the first crewed launch from US soil in almost a decade was tweeted by NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine on April 17. Bridenstine revealed that the agency “will once again launch American astronauts on American rockets from American soil” on May 27 at 20:32 UTC.
Launched aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9, the Crew Dragon will carry NASA veterans Douglas Hurley and Robert Behnken. As spacecraft commander, Hurley will be responsible for launch, landing and recovery activities. Behnken will be responsible for rendezvous, docking and undocking with the ISS as the mission’s joint operations commander.
Hurley, Behnken and the Demo-2 Crew Dragon are scheduled to remain aboard the ISS for “an extended stay.” According to NASA, the exact length of the stay is “to be determined.”
The Demo-2 mission will be the final flight test of the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft before it enters service. The test will validate the company’s crew transportation system, including the launch pad, rocket, spacecraft, and operational capabilities.
As SpaceX approaches the May 27 Demo-2 launch date, the company still has a few hurdles to overcome. Over the Easter weekend, the company completed another successful parachute test with one final test expected before the May 27 launch.
In addition to the final parachute test, SpaceX will also need to complete an investigation into a Merlin engine failure suffered in March. The failure took out one of nine Falcon 9 Merlin engines several minutes into the launch of 60 Starlink satellites. The failure did not affect the primary mission and all 60 satellites were deployed successfully.