NASA and SpaceX have successfully launched the first crewed mission from American soil carrying American astronauts since the retirement of the space shuttle.
The historic SpaceX Demo-2 mission was launched from Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center aboard a Falcon 9 rocket. The spacecraft carried NASA astronauts, Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley, the first crew to fly aboard a Crew Dragon. After a picture-perfect launch, the spacecraft was successfully deployed into low Earth orbit to begin its 19-hour pursuit of the International Space Station.
The 19 hours will, however, not be an opportunity for Behnken and Hurley to kick back after their historic launch. The crew, in concert with NASA and SpaceX personnel on the ground, will put the Crew Dragon through its paces ensuring that every element of the spacecraft is operational. This process is vital to ensure that the Crew Dragon can be certified for its first operational flight on August 30.
Once the Demo-2 Crew Dragon completes its rendezvous with the ISS, it will autonomously dock with the PMA-2 port on the station’s Harmony module. After successfully docking, the crew will be welcomed by NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy, and Roscosmos cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner of Expedition 63.
It is currently unclear how long Behnken and Hurley will remain aboard the space station. However, while they’re abroad, the crew will continue to test the Crew Dragon spacecraft to ensure it is holding up to the rigors of space.
Once their mission is complete, Behnken and Hurley will climb back into the Demo-2 Crew Dragon for their journey back to Earth. Once undocked from the space station, the spacecraft will reenter the Earth’s atmosphere splashing down in the ocean ready to be met by recovery crews. It will be the first time a crew has experienced a splashdown since the Apollo era.