Ushering in a new era in the American space program, two veteran astronauts readied for liftoff Saturday aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon en route to the International Space Station. This will be the second launch attempt, after bad weather forced flight controllers to scrub the launch on Wednesday at Florida’s Kennedy Space Center.
This mission will be the first launch of American astronauts from U.S. soil in nearly nine years, since the final flight of the Space Shuttle Atlantis in 2011. It will also be the first manned flight for the SpaceX Crew Dragon and the first time a commercial spacecraft has carried NASA astronauts into orbit.
How to watch the SpaceX Crew Dragon launch
- What: Launch of SpaceX Crew Dragon carrying two NASA astronauts
- Date: Saturday, May 30, 2020
- Time: 3:22 p.m. EDT
- Location: The Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, Florida
- On TV: Your local CBS station
- Live stream online: Watch live launch coverage on CBSN — in the video player above and on your mobile or streaming device.
- Pre-launch live stream coverage: Watch a live stream of preparations for launch in the video player above beginning at 11 a.m. EDT Saturday.
The crew, commander Douglas Hurley and astronaut Robert Behnken, both joined the astronaut corps in 2000. Hurley, a former Marine fighter pilot and test pilot, is a veteran of two previous space missions, serving as pilot of the final space shuttle flight in 2011. Behnken, a former Air Force test pilot, has logged more than 708 hours in space on two shuttle missions and completed six spacewalks.
The Crew Dragon will be carried aloft by a Falcon 9 rocket with 1.7 million pounds of thrust from its first stage engines. After powering the spacecraft out of the lower atmosphere, SpaceX will attempt to land the first stage on an off-shore droneship while the second stage continues the climb to orbit.
Twelve minutes after liftoff, the Crew Dragon will be released to fly on its own. It’s scheduled to arrive at the International Space Station about 19 hours later. There, they’ll join a crew of three others, including commander Chris Cassidy and two Russian cosmonauts, whose work on the orbiting station is largely devoted to scientific research in microgravity.
Their exact return date will be determined later, with weather conditions being a factor.
The mission, known as Demo 2, is the culmination of a six-year, multibillion-dollar NASA effort to end its reliance on Russia’s Soyuz spacecraft to transport astronauts to and from the space station. The Commercial Crew Program will eventually include launches by Boeing as well as SpaceX.
The launch would normally be expected to draw huge crowds of spectators to Florida’s “Space Coast,” but the Kennedy Space Center remains closed to non-essential personnel due to the coronavirus pandemic and the site will not be open for public launch viewing.
The astronauts’ families will be there for the big day, but with only a handful of invited guests instead of a large gathering of supporters. Both Hurley and Behnken are married to fellow astronauts: Hurley’s wife, Karen Nyberg, recently retired from NASA after two space missions, including a long-duration stay aboard the space station, while Behnken’s wife, Megan McArthur, helped repair the Hubble Space Telescope during a final shuttle servicing mission in 2009.
“We were looking forward to celebrating with lots of people who could physically come to the Cape and enjoy watching the launch in person,” McArthur said. “But I have gotten so many notes of support from people all over the country saying hey, we’re still going to be with you, we’re going to be watching from home, but we’re still cheering Bob and Doug on, you know — go, Dragon! — and so people are still really, really excited about it.”
Reporting by CBS News space consultant Bill Harwood.