US gets back in business in space with Resilience
Four astronauts were poised to launch on the SpaceX Crew Dragon “Resilience” to the International Space Station on Sunday, the first of what the US hopes will be many routine missions following a successful test flight in late spring.
Three Americans, Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover and Shannon Walker, and Japan’s Soichi Noguchi were to blast off at 7:27pm on Sunday (0:27am GMT on Monday) from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
In May, SpaceX completed a demonstration mission showing it could take astronauts to the ISS and bring them back safely, thus ending almost a decade of reliance on Russia for rides on its Soyuz rockets.
“The history being made this time is we’re launching what we call an operational flight to the International Space Station,” NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine told reporters on Friday.
The launch will be attended by US Vice President Mike Pence and second lady Karen Pence.
The crew will dock at their destination in the space about 11pm (4am GMT on Tuesday) on Monday.
They will join two Russians and one American onboard the station, and stay for six months.
The Crew Dragon earlier this week became the first spacecraft to be certified by NASA since the Space Shuttle nearly 40 years ago.
It is a capsule, similar in shape to the spacecraft which preceded Space Shuttle, and its launch vehicle is a reusable SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.
At the end of its missions, the Crew Dragon deploys parachutes then splashes down in water.
NASA turned to SpaceX and Boeing after shuttering the checkered Space Shuttle program in 2011, which failed in its main objectives of making space travel affordable and safe.
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, also head of the Telsa automaker, was unlikely to attend the launch after saying he “most likely” has a moderate case of COVID-19, even as questioned the accuracy of the tests.
“Am getting wildly different results from different labs,” Musk tweeted.