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SpaceX set for historic launch as human spaceflight enters new era

Issued on: 27/05/2020 – 13:34Modified: 27/05/2020 – 13:34

SpaceX, the private rocket company of billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk, was set to launch two Americans into orbit on Wednesday from Florida on a mission that would mark the first spaceflight of NASA astronauts from US soil in nine years.

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A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket was due to lift off from the Kennedy Space Center at 4:33 pm EDT (20:33 GMT), launching Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken on a 19-hour ride aboard the company's newly designed Crew Dragon capsule to the International Space Station.

They were to blast off from the same launch pad used by NASA's final space shuttle flight, piloted by Hurley, in 2011. President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence were scheduled to visit Florida's Cape Canaveral to view the launch in person.

Prospects for an on-time liftoff hinged on the weather, with forecasters late on Monday citing a 40% chance that storms over eastern Florida could force a postponement. If that happens, the next launch window would be Saturday afternoon.

Falcon 9 and Crew Dragon will lift off from Launch Complex 39A – the same place Saturn V launched humanity to the Moon and from where the first and final Space Shuttle missions lifted off pic.twitter.com/wOSsbCRqi7

— SpaceX (@SpaceX) May 25, 2020

A successful mission would achieve NASA's top priority, as articulated by agency chief Jim Bridenstine, of resuming launches of "American astronauts on American rockets from American soil." Over the past nine years, NASA astronauts have had to hitch rides into orbit aboard Russia's Soyuz spacecraft.

For Musk, Thursday's launch represents another milestone for the reusable rockets his company pioneered to make spaceflight less costly and frequent. It would also mark the first time that commercially developed space vehicles — owned and operated by a private entity rather than NASA — have carried Americans into orbit.

The last time NASA launched astronauts into space aboard a brand new vehicle was 40 years ago at the start of the shuttle program.

Musk, the South African-born high-tech entrepreneur who made his fortune in Silicon Valley, is also the CEO of electric carmaker and battery manufacturer Tesla Inc.

Hurley, 53, and Behnken, 49, NASA employees under contRead More – Source