NASA is calling flight its first “operational” mission for a missile and crew vehicle system that was 10 years in the works.
SpaceX, the missile company of high-tech entrepreneur Elon Musk, was scheduled to launch four astronauts on Sunday on a flight to the International Space Station, NASA’s first full-fledged mission to send a crew into orbit aboard a spacecraft. private property.
The company’s newly designed Crew Dragon capsule, which the crew dubbed Resilience, was set for takeoff on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket at 7:27 pm Eastern time (12:27 am GMT on Monday) from the Kennedy Space Center at NASA in Cape Canaveral, Florida, United States.
The 27-hour journey to the space station, a laboratory orbiting about 400 km (250 miles) above Earth, was originally scheduled to begin on Saturday.
But the launch was postponed by a day due to predictions of wind gusts – remnants of tropical storm Eta – that would make a return landing difficult for Falcon 9’s reusable booster stage, NASA officials said.
NASA is calling flight its first “operational” mission for a missile and crew vehicle system that was 10 years in the works. It represents a new era of commercially developed spacecraft – owned and operated by a private entity rather than NASA – to send Americans into orbit.
“This is the culmination of years of work and commitment by many people and a long time,” Benji Reed, senior director of human spaceflight programs at SpaceX, told reporters Friday. “We have built what I would call one of the safest launch vehicles and spacecraft ever.”
A test flight by the SpaceX Crew Dragon in August, carrying just two astronauts to and from the space station, marked NASA’s first human space mission launched from U.S. soil in nine years, following the end of the space shuttle program in 2011 .
In the following years, US astronauts had to hitchhike to enter orbit aboard the Russian Soyuz spacecraft.
The Resilience crew includes Commander Mike Hopkins and two fellow NASA astronauts, mission pilot Victor Glover and physicist Shannon Walker. They will be joined by Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi, who will make his third journey into space after previously flying the US shuttle in 2005 and Soyuz in 2009.
Musk, the billionaire CEO of SpaceX who is also the CEO of electric carmaker and battery maker Tesla Inc, probably won’t watch the Kennedy Space Center launch control room take off as usual, NASA officials said. Musk said on Saturday he “most likely” has a moderate case of COVID-19.
SpaceX and NASA conducted the contact tracing and determined that Musk had not come into contact with anyone who had interacted with the astronauts.
“Our astronauts have been in quarantine for weeks and they shouldn’t have had contact with anyone,” NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said Friday. “They should be in good shape.”
NASA contracted SpaceX and Boeing in 2014 to develop competing space capsules to replace its shuttle program and wean the United States of reliance on Russian rockets to send astronauts into space.