Today, SpaceX will launch a rocket intended to dock with the International Space Station. And while that sounds old hat for the company at this point, this time is different. For the first time in almost a decade, astronauts will launch to orbit from the United States. And you can watch it on YouTube, the SpaceX site, or NASA’s website at 4 PM Eastern.
In 2011, NASA stopped launching astronauts to space. The idea was to hand over those duties to private companies sometime in the future. Since that point, all astronauts and NASA’s international partners have flown into space on Russian Soyuz capsules.
While SpaceX has seemingly mastered the incredible task of launching rockets to orbit, then catching pieces of it after for reuse, it hasn’t launched people into space before today. The company has been working towards this goal for six years, and experienced setbacks along the way.
Last year a Crew Dragon capsule exploded during a ground test, and the company has seen rocket malfunctions before. One thing that sets SpaceX apart is how publically it shows failures, choosing to call them “gifts” that lead to safer vehicles.
SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket will take off from the company’s launch site at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida today at 4 PM Eastern. Two astronauts, Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley will board the capsule, and then fueling will begin. If all goes well and the weather holds, liftoff should occur at 4:33 PM.
Once in orbit, the Falcon 9 rocket will release the Crew Dragon capsule, which will begin a 19-hour journey to the International Space Station. Along the way, the crew will run tests on manual flight before finally docking with the station.
Weather is always a sticking point with sending a rocket to orbit, and if it doesn’t hold out, SpaceX may scrub and reschedule the launch. You can watch the launch on YouTube, the SpaceX site, and NASA’s website.