SpaceX launched it’s Crew Dragon demo 2 which took two astronauts — veteran NASA fliers Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley. Strapped inside the sleek, gumdrop-shaped capsule, the duo lifted off on top of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 3:22 PM ET on Saturday. The rocket dropped the Crew Dragon off in orbit about 12 minutes later.
Now, the astronauts will spend roughly the next day in orbit before attempting to dock with the International Space Station on Sunday morning.
Though this mission is considered a test, it still carried enormous weight for the United States. The last time people launched to orbit from the US was during the final flight of NASA’s Space Shuttle on July 8th, 2011. Since then, Russia’s Soyuz rocket has been the only vehicle available to do crewed flights to the ISS (International Space Station), and just one seat on the Soyuz runs NASA about $80 million.
They’re laying the foundation for a new era in human spaceflight,” NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said before launch. “It’s an era in human spaceflight where more space is going to be available to more people than ever before.Advertisement
The two astronauts also have to come home eventually — and test the Crew Dragon’s ability to return humans safely to Earth. NASA hasn’t decided when the pair will head home; it’ll be sometime between the next six and 16 weeks.