SpaceX Launched Astronauts to the Space Station in a Historic Moment
NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley were launched into space inside a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, taking a trip to the International Space Station (ISS). This was a historic moment for SpaceX which became the first private entity to send people into space, and also because the last time that NASA astronauts launched from American soil was in July 2011, using NASA’s aged Space Shuttle.
Falcon 9 ripped through the skies for 12 minutes and then dropped off the “Dragon 2” capsule in LEO (low Earth orbit). So far, the Dragon was tested and deployed only in cargo transportation scenarios, so this was the first time the capsule carried crew.
A day later, Dragon activated its automated docking system, so it handled the delicate maneuvering and brought Bob and Doug aboard the ISS. The men had two brief manual flight demos in the Dragon, only to check that the mode was working as expected. Other than that, they had to do nothing at all, so they even slept for +-seven hours.
All of this was a big test for upcoming crew missions to the ISS, as NASA wants to stop paying roughly $80 million to book a seat in the Russian Soyuz. In August, NASA will send three Americans and a Japanese astronaut, while Roscosmos denied sending a cosmonaut to that mission as they feel that the Dragon vehicle is not yet flight-proven.
Still, despite the delays and one last-minute cancellation due to bad weather conditions, the Falcon carried Dragon to the outer space, and the latter managed to dock to the ISS as planned.
The Falcon 9 booster returned and landed successfully on the offshore pad, and now all that remains is for the Dragon to return the men home safely. This will complete the success of this “testing” mission, and considering that everything has been following an ideal trajectory so far, there are no indications or signs that there will be any issues.