SpaceX to send NASA astronauts to ISS
The US space agency, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, is sending its two astronauts to space, in a private spacerocket.
The spacecraft — designed, built and owned by SpaceX — will eventually blast off headed for the International Space Station, the first time a private company has been used for NASA astronauts. It will also mark the first time in nearly a decade that the US has launched astronauts into orbit from the US.
NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken will fly to the ISS aboard a SpaceX Dragon crew capsule completely different to NASA’s old Apollo spacecraft. Instead of a mess of switches and knobs inside, for instance, there are touchscreens.
It will be the first astronaut launch from Florida, US, since the space shuttle program closed in 2011, and the first US-made capsule to carry people into orbit since the Apollo-Soyuz mission in 1975.
Though the launch was supposed to happen on Thursday, it was postponed till Sunday due to bad weather. The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket — with the crew capsule on top — will soar from the same pad used for both of those earlier missions.
Its primary purpose is to test the Crew Dragon spacecraft and the Falcon 9 rocket’s suitability for human flight. If all goes as expected, SpaceX could begin regularly flying astronauts to and from the ISS as early as summer 2020.
This would reduce NASA’s dependency on Russia’s Soyuz spacecraft, which has been the astronauts’ only means of getting to and from the ISS for nearly a decade. SpaceX’s relatively low price will also save the US agency a substantial amount of money.
Unlike other spacecrafts, the SpaceX Dragon is reusable. The spacecraft and escape system are not simply thrown away after use but could instead be cleaned up, checked out and configured for another flight.