NASA today signed off on the first launch to send a crew into orbit from US soil in almost nine years, and the rocket for that launch got what's expected to be its final test firing.
Images from NASA and footage from SpaceX show the Falcon 9 rocket and the Crew Dragon spacecraft in position on the launch pad as preparations continue for Demo-2 a week before the historic launch. NASA's iconic "worm" logo can clearly be seen plastered onto the side of the Falcon 9 as it is being rolled out, while the SpaceX logo can be seen as it is being raised.
Astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken are scheduled to arrive at the space station on May 28 and stay for at least 30 days - and possibly as long as 110, according to NASA.
NASA also said the review confirmed that the agency's partners in the International Space Station program had agreed to allow the Crew Dragon to dock with the station.
Apple, Google offer virus contact-tracing tech Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat who has praised Apple and Google's efforts, noted that there are privacy concerns relating to the tech. These identifiers get stored on device. "The new app will allow epidemiologists to identify contacts more quickly".
Now that the flight readiness review and the static-fire test have been checked off the to-do list, the next big event on the agenda is Saturday's "dry dress rehearsal", which will involve going through the launch-day schedule without fueling up and firing the rocket. President Donald Trump has indicated he wants to witness the launch.
Should the SpaceX mission succeed, the United States will have achieved its goal of no longer having to buy seats on Russian Soyuz rockets to send astronauts to the ISS, which has been occupied by U.S. and Russian astronauts since 2000.
The United States has spent billions of dollars in recent years on SpaceX and Boeing in a bid to regain the capability to send astronauts into space. The space agency is paying $90 million to Russia's space agency for a seat on a launch later in 2020. The mission duration will be determined by the readiness of the next commercial crew launch.
If next week's Crew Dragon mission - baptized Demo-2 - is successful SpaceX will be the first private company ever to deliver astronauts to the ISS. "We had very high confidence that they will function as we need them to". Even if the launch and the space station rendezvous go perfectly, Behnken and Hurley will be spending somewhere between a month and four months working in orbit before they ride their Dragon back to an Atlantic Ocean splashdown.
Kathy Lueders, NASA's manager for the commercial crew program, said that a year ago, she probably wouldn't have thought SpaceX could be ready by now.