The two veterans Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken will leave on board the Crew Dragon of SpaceX to the International Space Station.
It is the first time that a private company has brought men into space.
Jim Bridenstine, NASA administrator, is pleased with the new challenge: “We are once again launching American astronauts on American rockets from American soil. And this is a great moment, nine years have passed since we had this opportunity.”
The launch of the Demo-2 mission occurs nearly nine years after the last flight of an American manned spacecraft. It was in fact on 8 July 2011 when the Shuttle Endeavor left Cape Canaveral for Sts-135, its twenty-fifth and last mission in space, as well as the last of the Space Shuttle.
Bob Cabana, director of the Kennedy Space Center, emphasizes the collaboration with SpaceX: “SpaceX is located in launch room four of the control center, thanks to a partnership we have with them. And it will be the director of SpaceX to give the off to the mission “.
In NASA’s tweet: “Together with @SpaceX, after almost a decade, we will bring human space flight back to American soil after almost a decade. Tomorrow is not just a great day for our teams – it is a great day for our country. http://www.nasa.gov/launchamerica/ #LancioAmerica“.
SpaceX is a private aerospace company owned by Elon Musk: it regularly puts satellites into orbit and – following the partnership with NASA – has already flown eighteen refueling missions to the Space Station, but this is the first time it brings people above the atmosphere.
The ascent into orbit of Hurley and Behnken is expected to last just under nine minutes, followed by a series of docking maneuvers at the Space Station.
The duration of the mission is not known exactly but – once the work is finished – Crew Dragon will automatically disengage from the Space Station and will be ready to return to the atmosphere, returning Behnken and Hurley to Earth with a ditch off the east coast of Florida : the classic splashdown of the Apollo missions.
In the SpaceX tweet: “Falcon 9 and Crew Dragon will take off from Launch Complex 39A – the same place where Saturn V launched humanity to the Moon and where the first and last Space Shuttle mission took off“.
Tonight’s launch is set for 22:32 (Italian time) and it will be possible to follow it in streaming from the NASA website.