On Saturday, May 30 at 3:22 p.m. EDT, SpaceX’s Falcon 9 launched Crew Dragon’s second demonstration (Demo-2) mission from Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. This test flight with NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley on board the Dragon spacecraft returned human spaceflight to the United States. Crew Dragon will autonomously dock to the International Space Station at about 10:30 a.m. EDT on Sunday, May 31.
“SpaceX, Dragon, we’re go for launch, let’s light this candle,” Hurley said to SpaceX mission control in Hawthorne, California, just before liftoff.
Behnken and Hurley—occasionally referred to by their colleagues as Dr. Bob and Chunky—are now cruising to the International Space Station, a journey that will take approximately 19 hours. This flight of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon is only the fifth time in history that U.S. astronauts have piloted a brand-new spacecraft into orbit.
For the first time since NASA retired its space shuttles in 2011, the space agency can launch astronauts from its home shores rather than paying for seats aboard Russian spacecraft. Now, NASA will buy seats on Crew Dragon. In the new Commercial Crew model, SpaceX retains ownership and operational control of its spacecraft, meaning anyone with enough cash, at least in theory, could buy a ticket to orbit.
The historic space launch was supposed to happen Wednesday, but Florida weather swooped in to do what Florida weather does best. And caused the launch to be delayed.
Once in orbit, the crew and SpaceX mission control will verify the spacecraft is performing as intended by testing the environmental control and life support systems, the maneuvering thrusters, and thermal control systems, among other things. Crew Dragon will perform a series of phasing maneuvers to position itself for rendezvous and docking with the International Space Station.
The spacecraft is designed to do this autonomously but astronauts onboard the spacecraft and the Space Station will be diligently monitoring approach and docking and can take control of the spacecraft if necessary.