NASA, SpaceX make final preparations for historic launch

SpaceX, the Falcon 9 and the Dragon capsule have of course been to the ISS before, on several robotic ISS resupply missions.

The primary objective of the mission is to demonstrate the Dragon's performance for future crewed flights.

Many of these missions have been to deliver supplies to the International Space Station (ISS) or to loft satellites into orbit around the Earth. (Pauline Acalin)At least 400-500 people work at SpaceX's rapidly growing South Texas Starship production, test, and launch facilities. This mission will mark the first time NASA astronauts will liftoff from American soil in almost a decade.

The Demo-2 mission will launch atop a Falcon 9 rocket and carry the astronauts toward the International Space Station at around 17,000 miles per hour (27,360 km/h). The mission, called Demo-2, will be the first crewed test flight of SpaceX's Crew Dragon spacecraft, following a successful uncrewed test flight, Demo-1, in March 2019. On May 27, SpaceX's first manned space flight is set to take off for the International Space Station at 4:33PM EDT (2:03AM IST on May 28), from Pad 39a of NASA's Kennedy Space Center.

The sun rises with SpaceX's Crew Dragon capsule sitting atop a Falcon 9 rocket at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The president will travel to Florida for Wednesday's launch, a White House official confirmed on Friday. Among those that will be in attendance include President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence.

Cassidy and Behnken also are to install new equipment onto the European Space Agency's module, preparing it for a new platform that will host scientific experiments. Assuming all goes well, NASA will launch four astronauts, including one woman, aboard a Crew Dragon this coming fall. Even if there are no thunderstorms around, a rocket can trigger its own lightning, like what happened during the launch of Apollo 12.

If dry weather does prevail at the launchpad, nearby clouds and storms on Wednesday afternoon could be enough to force the launch to be postponed. He said the backup days for launch, May 30 and 31, had a "better probability of launching, and lower risk numbers across the Atlantic".

A final run-through of the launch on Sunday went smoothly, leading to final approval of a flight on which Behnken and Hurley will dock at the ISS and stay there for an "extended" period during which they'll become part of the ISS Expedition 63 crew. Funded along with Boeing to ensure that NASA has two redundant spacecraft available, the latter company's Starliner spacecraft has run into extensive delays after its orbital flight test (OFT) uncovered dangerously shoddy software and quality control.

"I certainly didn't expect to fly again, (and) I certainly didn't necessarily have a plan to fly again", Hurley said in an interview with USA Today.

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