The United States begins to launch astronauts back into orbit


Today, at 4:33 pm local time, the Falcon 9 rocket will start with the Dragon 2 spacecraft from Kennedy Space Center of Cape Canaveral (Florida). The destination? The International Space Station (ISS). The launch, signed SpaceX, will transport two American astronauts, Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley, in low earth orbit (“low earth orbit -Leo”).

The launch is part of the NASA program “Commercial Crew”(Commercial Crew Program) – a series of partnerships with American private giants (such as SpaceX) for the development and launch of space transportation systems. Another member of this partnership is, for example, the Boeing company.

It is a very important event because it will be the first launch, after the Shuttle’s final flight in 2011, to transport American astronauts in orbit from American soil with American vehicles. In short, everything Made in the USA. And of course the President cannot miss this event Donald Trump, which is highly anticipated at the Cape Canaveral base as Director Bridenstine said in NASA. Also present will be Kelly Clarkson (winner of the first edition of American Idol), who will sing the American anthem.

The mission, entitled Demo-2, is composed of a rocket Falcon 9 and the spacecraft Dragon, both built by SpaceX in the United States. The Falcon 9 is a partially reusable rocket (the first stage manages to land vertically after being used) with nine Merlin engines. It has the ability to ship over 22 tons of material and personnel in low orbit). The Dragon spacecraft, however, has enough space for 7 astronauts. Together with the Boeing CST-100 Starliner it will be used to guarantee transportation to the ISS in the “Commercial Crew” program.

This evening the rocket will start from the famous platform 39A of the Kennedy Space Center accelerating the astronauts to over 27,000 km / h to reach the low Earth orbit, where the ISS is located. The astronauts will remain in orbit for about 24 hours before docking at the Space Station, completely autonomously.

This launch also aims to demonstrate the maturity of the SpaceX launch system. Everything must work perfectly: the platform, the Dragon spacecraft, the Falcon 9 rocket, and all terrestrial and orbital operations. In the 24 hours before the docking, in fact, Behnken and Hurley will check the environmental, control, maneuvering systems, and many others, to demonstrate Dragon’s ability in the operating environment.

For this “test” NASA has chosen two veterans. Behnken, with NASA since 2000, has already been in orbit twice with the Shuttle (2008 and 2010). He has made three spacewalks (ExtraVehicular Activity- Eva) and will be Head of Joint Operations, such as the meeting with Iss, the docking, and the return journey. Hurley, also with NASA since 2000, traveled his two space missions in 2009 and 2011. He will be the Commander of the Spacecraft, taking responsibility for take-off and landing. Both are experienced US military pilots.

The duration of the mission has not yet been finalized. It is only known that Dragon must be able to operate over 200 days in space (as a NASA requirement). The two astronauts will continue testing Dragon and participate in research projects with the crew currently present on the station.

This is the last step before NASA’s certification of the SpaceX system. It must demonstrate the ability to remain in orbit for long periods and be supportive of the ISS. America is aiming for success that could open many doors to the race to space.

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