Monday, May 20, 2024

NASA, SpaceX to launch first manned Crew Dragon flight on May 27

The SpaceX’s first manned Crew Dragon spacecraft will take off at 4:32 p.m. EDT May 27, from the very famous Launch Complex 39A of the Kennedy space center in Florida. It will be the first American human spaceflight on an American rocket from American soil to the International Space Station since July 2011, when the American space agency had stopped its space shuttle program, making the United States dependent on Russian technology.

Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley will be the first American astronauts to go into the orbit on SpaceX’s next-generation human space vehicle. Both were selected for their extensive test pilot and flight experience, including several missions on the space shuttle. Behnken will be responsible for activities such as rendezvous, docking, and undocking, as well as Demo-2 activities when the spacecraft is docked to the space station. And Hurley will be responsible for the launch, landing, and recovery.

SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft
SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft.

After successfully docking, Behnken and Hurley will perform tests on Crew Dragon in addition to conducting research and other tasks with the space station crew. Though the operational Crew Dragon spacecraft is capable of staying in orbit for at least 210 days, the specific mission duration will be determined once on a station based on the readiness of the next commercial crew launch.

Upon conclusion of the mission, Crew Dragon will return to Earth and splashdown off Florida’s Atlantic Coast, where the capsule and two astronauts will be recovered by SpaceX’s Go Navigator recovery vessel and returned to Cape Canaveral.

This project is part of the Commercial Crew program that NASA has set up with SpaceX and Boeing. A multi-billion dollar contract has been signed with the two companies.

SpaceX has outstripped Boeing by building a more successful and operational capsule more quickly. In fact, Boeing was unable to convince with an empty test flight of its Starliner capsule, which revealed several dangerous flaws in communication software. On the contrary, the Crew Dragon capsule had passed the test in 2019, by carrying a mannequin ‘Rosie the Astronaut’ on board, which came to dock on the International Space Station. This reusable ship can be used to deliver crews of up to 4 people to the station.