A historic SpaceX launch is set to take place on Wednesday, marking a milestone in human spaceflight for the United States as the first all-American flight into orbit since 2011.
NASA said in a statement on Friday that astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley will fly aboard the space agency’s SpaceX Demo-2 test flight to and from the International Space Station (ISS) at 4:33 p.m. ET.
Weather conditions initially stood in the way, but the forecast in Florida is improving for the launch. Late Tuesday, the odds of acceptable launch weather improved to 60 per cent.
According to the NASA, Behnken and Hurley were among the first astronauts to begin working and training on SpaceX’s next-generation human space vehicle and were selected for their “extensive test pilot and flight experience, including several missions on the space shuttle.”
The launch will be the Falcon 9 rocket’s second spaceflight test, but its first with astronauts on board. It is slated to lift-off out of Launch Complex 39A at the NASA Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
“Excitement will be felt across the country and around the world,” the statement read.
NASA said the flight test will provide data on “the performance of the Falcon 9 rocket, the Crew Dragon and ground systems, as well as in-orbit, docking, and landing operations.”
It’s the final test for the privately-owned space company’s flight system. If successful, it will be certified by NASA for operational crew missions to and from the ISS.
Once certified, SpaceX said in a release last month NASA astronauts Victor Glover, Mike Hopkins, Shannon Walker and JAXA astronaut Soichi Noguchi have been assigned to fly on Dragon’s first six-month operational mission targeted for later this year.
It noted the Dragon was the first U.S. spacecraft to autonomously dock with the ISS and return to Earth safely after successfully completing an end-to-end test without NASA astronauts on board in March.