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NASA sets May 27 date for historic first SpaceX launch with crew aboard

NASA astronauts Bob Behnken (L) and Doug Hurley wear SpaceX spacesuits as they prepare for the company's first crewed flight of the Dragon capsule, now set for May 27. Photo courtesy of SpaceX
NASA astronauts Bob Behnken (L) and Doug Hurley wear SpaceX spacesuits as they prepare for the company's first crewed flight of the Dragon capsule, now set for May 27. Photo courtesy of SpaceX | License Photo

ORLANDO, Fla., April 17 (UPI) -- NASA has set May 27 for SpaceX's Crew Dragon capsule to launch astronauts from Florida -- the first such launch from U.S. soil since the space shuttle program ended in 2011.

"NASA will once again launch American astronauts on American rockets from American soil!" NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine tweeted Friday.

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Astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley are scheduled for the "Demo 2" flight to the International Space Station.

It will be the maiden crewed flight for the Crew Dragon capsule. Elon Musk's SpaceX flew a successful demonstration flight to the space station in March 2019.

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The mission would be the first launch of American astronauts aboard an American rocket and spacecraft since the final shuttle mission on July 8, 2011, with the exception of Virgin Galactic demonstration flights.

The space station has been accessible to astronauts only through purchasing seats on Russian capsules launched from Kazakhstan for the last nine years.

The Dragon capsule is to lift off atop SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket from Complex 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center.

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The launch announcement comes during the coronavirus pandemic, as NASA limits on-site activity to "mission-critical" personnel. All other NASA employees and contractors are required to work from home.

The launch is considered the final test of SpaceX's crewed system, including docking, splashdown and recovery, before the company is certified to conduct regular crewed flights to the space station.

SpaceX's successful in-flight test in January showed that the capsule could carry astronauts to safety in an emergency.

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The California-based company has pioneered use of reusable rocket boosters, and recently flew its 20th uncrewed cargo mission to the space station.

SpaceX is competing with Boeing to supply astronaut ferry service to the space station. Boeing ran into problems in December with an uncrewed test flight for its Starliner capsule failing to reach the orbit required for the rendezvous.

Starliner will have to conduct another uncrewed test flight, but no date has been announced for that.



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