First astronaut launch from U.S. soil in nearly a decade

NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley walk out of the Operations and Checkout Building on their way to the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket

Nonetheless, after this mission is completed, SpaceX's Crew Dragon, powered by the Falcon 9 rocket, will carry 4 astronauts to the ISS, including USA astronauts Shannon Walker, Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover and JAXA astronaut Soichi Noguchi.

SpaceX claims that sending astronauts to the International Space Station will mean a "turning point for America's future in space exploration" that could propel missions to "the moon, Mars and beyond".

If successful, it will catapult the company into an unprecedented era, proving countless traditional aerospace naysayers wrong and beating the likes of Boeing to the punch - all with a self-built reusable rocket and spacecraft that are dramatically cheaper than their closest competitors. It will be the single most encouraging step SpaceX has taken towards the permanent settlement of the solar system. NASA formally assigned Behnken and Hurley to the Demo-2 mission in August 2018.

NASA's commercial crew program set a number of safety requirements for the spacecraft whose development it supported. Recovering crewed spacecraft from the ocean carries numerous challenges and constraints with it, many of which involve specific spacecraft characteristics. Once the mission is over, the Crew Dragon will undock from the ISS and begin the trip back to Earth.

And while SpaceX regularly puts satellites into orbit, this is the first time it will have taken people above the atmosphere. Alone - but still supported by outside teams - in a flight-ready Crew Dragon for the first time, Behnken and Hurley both know they will have the best of the best strapped in next to them.

Crew Dragon will catch up with the station on Thursday at an altitude of 400 kilometers, and will probably remain docked there until August. Eastern, although NBC News notes that NASA is "monitoring weather reports at the Florida launch site that may delay proceedings".

The Falcon 9 rocket will lift off from Launch Pad 39A, the pad that sent Apollo 11 to the moon. (NASA - Bill Ingalls)There is now a 40% chance of weather delays.

SpaceX and NASA made the call to scrub the launch today since there were a couple of weather issues that prevented the attempt from taking place. However, storms in the area have a high chance of becoming a hindrance for the launch which the United States Air force's 45h Space Wing has given a 60% chance of liftoff based on the weather forecast. NASA has set backup launch days of May 30 or May 31. "A big part of a flight readiness review is reviewing and accepting the risks", Steve Jurczyk, NASA associate administrator, said at that May 22 briefing.

Expected at KSC for the launch: President Trump, Vice President Pence, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, at least half a dozen current and former astronauts, and countless other VIPs.

NASA stopped building its own shuttles almost 10 years ago and officials say they're ready to be customers of private companies, with Musk's business being the first example. So stay tuned, because the private space race is ramping up.



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