SpaceX ready to launch astronauts into space for the first time

NASA gives crucial thumbs-up to SpaceX’s historic crewed flight to space station

The historic launch that would take NASA astronauts to the ISS from U.S. soil has been cleared for launch next week despite the coronavirus pandemic and the departure of the agency's human spaceflight lead.

NASA's Commercial Crew program, aimed at developing private spacecraft to transport American astronauts in to space, began under Barack Obama. Steve Jurczyk, the agency's Associate Administrator, said they did "a thorough review of all the systems and all the risks" and unanimously decided that everything's in place for a May 27th launch. During the rehearsal, a "dry-run" test that did not fuel the Falcon 9 rocket, the two astronauts donned their SpaceX spacesuits, headed to the launch pad in NASA-branded Tesla Model X SUVs and climbed inside their Crew Dragon craft to practice launch day activities. The NASA chief told the two he saw them as "a bright light for all of America right now".

"SpaceX has gone all out" on the capsule's appearance, he said. "Much harder problem than it may seem", he tweeted.

"Then we'll bring it back when we come back later this summer".

Hurle and Behnken, who arrived in Florida a couple of days ago for final pre-flight preparations, looked in on the flight readiness review as well.

"We're really comfortable with it, and we think that those trades have been made appropriately", Behnken said.

Those myriad programs can't simply freeze operations without catastrophically impacting future plans and schedules, meaning that Musk's "redirection" is likely more an effort to keep the public focus on Crew Dragon, versus actually retasking thousands of employees to do work that probably doesn't (but might) exist.

Behnken and Hurley will link up with three colleagues who have been in space since April.

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk says that he's "redirected SpaceX's priorities" to be nearly entirely focused on Crew Dragon's imminent astronaut launch debut, delaying Starship's own hop test debut by at least a week or two as a result.

It will be the first crewed launch in SpaceX history, and the first time NASA has sent humans to space from U.S. soil since the Space Shuttle Era.

The use of the state of the art technology from Elon Musk's SpaceX is part of NASA's flagship campaign to use the private sector for ISS missions and curb its reliance on Russia's Soyuz rocket.

Only the Russian, US, and Chinese governments have done so in the past.

There have been plenty of setbacks along the way. A different Crew Dragon blew up during a launch-pad test a year ago, forcing a redesign of the craft's propulsion system. And in December, an uncrewed test flight of Boeing's Starliner space taxi went awry, guaranteeing that SpaceX would be the first to fly a crew. While the spacecraft is programmed to do the docking automatically, the crew will be constantly monitoring it.

"But you know what, you can never sell this NASA and SpaceX team short, and they've always accomplished miracles for me", she said.

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