NASA announced Friday that it has given the green light to the launch next Wednesday of two American astronauts aboard a SpaceX rocket, which will be the first American human flight since 2011.
“The NASA SpaceX Crew Dragon mission has the green light for the launch,” tweeted NASA.
Senior officials from the US space agency and Elon Musk’s company had been meeting since Thursday at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida to verify that everything was ready and secure for the mission.
Direction the ISS
Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley will take off on May 27 at 4:33 p.m. (8:33 p.m. GMT) aboard a Crew Dragon capsule, heading for the International Space Station (ISS), where they will dock the next day.
It will be the first 100% American manned mission since the end of the space shuttles in 2011 after 30 years of service.
Since then, only the Russians have had a means of space transportation and dozens of American astronauts (and other countries) have learned Russian and traveled aboard Soyuz rockets, departing from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, to return to the station, permanently occupied since 2000 by Americans and Russians.
Independent access to space for the United States
NASA has financed since the presidency of Barack Obama SpaceX ($ 3.1 billion in contracts) and separately Boeing ($ 4.9 billion) in order to give the United States independent access to space. The program was originally scheduled to take over from the shuttles in 2015.
A delay that Neil Armstrong, the first man to have walked on the Moon, already judged in 2010 “humiliating and unacceptable”. In the end, the hole will have lasted almost nine years – provided that the SpaceX flight goes well.
Astronauts trained for five years
Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken have been training for five years on the Crew Dragon capsule, an ultra-modern pendant of Apollo capsules from the 1960s. Inside, everything is controlled by touch screens. Like Apollo, Crew Dragon will return to land on Earth.
The SpaceX and Boeing companies will each have to make six trips by four astronauts to the ISS in the coming years, not counting the demonstration mission.
If SpaceX, founded in 2002 by then millionaire Elon Musk (he is now a billionaire), succeeded in this mission, called Demo-2 following Demo-1, which went off without incident in March 2019 with a model on board, it would become the first private company in space history to have transported astronauts to the ISS.