UPDATE: With just minutes to go before launch, the Crew Dragon mission was scrubbed due to weather concerns. The next flight attempt will be 2:22 pm Saturday, May 30, according to NASA.
Two NASA astronauts are set to make history on a space mission with many Texas connections.
Astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley — who hail from the Houston area — will blast off on Elon Musk’s SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft, a Falcon 9 rocket, at 3:33 pm (CST) Wednesday, May 27, from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida.
The flight is currently scheduled as a 60-percent “go” for launch as of May 27, with only inclement weather or a technical issue holding up the takeoff.
The mission will carry the duo to the International Space Station and is considered a new era of human spaceflight, as it's the first time American astronauts will launch on an American rocket from American soil to low-Earth orbit since the conclusion of the Space Shuttle Program in 2011.
The mission is the first launch with astronauts of the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket to the International Space Station as part of NASA's Commercial Crew Program. It’s the final flight test for SpaceX; the mission will validate the company’s crew transportation system, including the launch pad, rocket, spacecraft, and operational capabilities.
The road to success for SpaceX runs through the small Central Texas town of McGregor, as the Waco Tribune-Herald reports. McGregor, a Waco suburb with a population of 5,200, is home to a SpaceX facility that employs about 500 workers and tests engines and other components before every launch. When the rocket boosters are recovered from the Atlantic Ocean, they are transported to McGregor for refurbishment.
Getting the spacecraft and astronauts safely home will boost the fortunes of the Waco-area aerospace industry and the SpaceX plant in general, Andrew Smith, executive director of the McGregor Economic Development Corp., told the newspaper.
The pairing of NASA — a governmental agency — and SpaceX, a commercial space flight operation, means NASA could save tens of millions in flight costs and instead focus on its Artemis mission to the moon, for example.
“The ultimate goal for us as astronauts and test pilots is just to go up there and prove out the mission and to bring the vehicle home safely,” Hurley told CultureMap news partner, ABC13.
The mission also will be the first time NASA astronauts will test the spacecraft systems in orbit — Behnken and Hurley will don new, specially designed spacesuits and use touchscreen computers systems.
Due to COVID-19 and subsequent social distancing issue, the launch will see only a small crowd at the Cape Canaveral takeoff.
But the whole world can watch via live feeds on social media channels.
Viewers can watch NASA’s coverage beginning at 11:15 am May 27 and running through the Crew Dragon’s docking at the International Space Station on May 28.
As part of the pre-launch ceremonies, at 12:07 pm, Burleson native Kelly Clarkson will sing the National Anthem. Launch and pre-launch activities can be watched on YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and even LinkedIn.
A special called Space Launch Live: America Returns to Space airs at 1 pm on the Discovery and Science Channel and will feature special celebrity guests including singer Katy Perry, Adam Savage, former NASA engineer and YouTube star Mark Robert, and astronaut Chris Cassidy from the International Space Station.