NASA will close a nearly decade long chapter next month when SpaceX sends American astronauts to space on an American rocket from American soil.
Since the Space Shuttle Program ended in 2011, American’s space agency has relied on leasing seats from Russian rockets in Kazakhstan to send NASA astronauts to space.
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine announced today that the mission, called Demo-2 or DM-2, officially has a launch date scheduled.
DM-2 launch date
The launch is scheduled for Wednesday, May 27, at 4:32 p.m. EDT from Launch Complex 39A in Florida. NASA and SpaceX previously provided guidance for a mid to late May launch timeframe.
If the launch is scrubbed for any reason, the next target date is on Saturday, May 30.
SpaceX will use its Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon spacecraft, which was rated for human spaceflight a year ago, to send NASA astronauts Bob Behnken, joint operations commander, and Doug Hurley, spacecraft commander, to the International Space Station.
Astronauts Behnken and Hurley will join the crew of Expedition 63 aboard the ISS, including NASA Astronaut Commander Chris Cassidy, which arrived at the space station earlier this month.
The worm returns
A familiar NASA icon will be seen on the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket for the first time during the Demo-2 mission in May. NASA announced earlier this month that the agency is reviving the worm logo for the first time since the early 90s to mark the return of human spaceflight from the United States.
SpaceX and NASA
SpaceX, the private rocket company founded by Tesla CEO Elon Musk, has long been a critical NASA partner. SpaceX recently completed its latest Commercial Resupply Service mission to transport cargo to and from the ISS for NASA.
SpaceX will also send massive cargo loads to the lunar orbiting Gateway, an important component for establishing a presence on the Moon, using a new Dragon XL spacecraft. The recent develop brings SpaceX into NASA’s Artemis program which will see NASA send the first woman and next man to the Moon during this decade.
Later this year, SpaceX is scheduled to complete its first operational crewed mission for NASA following the success of the DM-2 mission. NASA astronauts Shannon Walker, Michael Hopkins, and Victor Glover Jr. will be joined by JAXA astronaut Soichi Nogochi on a six-month mission to the ISS.
Commercial Crew Program
The upcoming launch is part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. Since the Space Shuttle Program ended in 2011, NASA has relies on buying seats for NASA astronauts on Russian Soyuz rockets.
Through the Commercial Crew Program, NASA partners SpaceX and Boeing were selected to provide astronauts from NASA and other space agencies access to space from the United States.
Boeing will join SpaceX in sending astronauts to space from America following a successful Starliner orbital flight test later this year.
Demo-2 won’t just be a milestone mission for NASA and the United States. The launch will be the first mission that demonstrates human spaceflight capabilities for SpaceX. The private company hopes to use its spacecraft for sending tourists to space by 2022.
The duration for DM-2 has not yet been determined. Learn more about NASA DM-2 here.