It’s no secret that NASA is working closely with private contractors like Boeing and SpaceX as a part of its Commercial Crew Program to develop a budget-friendly means of blasting astronauts off into outer space; and perhaps more importantly, to break away from dependence on other countries for crewed space launches by bringing some of those back to American soil for the first time since the Space Shuttle era nearly a decade ago.
Image Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls
To date, only SpaceX has successfully passed all of NASA’s extensive trials and safety tests to be deemed ‘crew ready.’ Boeing, on the other hand, displayed technical difficulties during one of its Starliner demonstration missions, which might explain why only SpaceX is poised to launch two American astronauts to the International Space Station this week whereas Boeing is still trying to figure out the safety of its systems.
NASA pegged Wednesday, May 27th for SpaceX’s first official crewed spaceflight date last month, but it wasn’t until just this past Friday that a review panel comprised of NASA’s board of directors and top SpaceX officials officially gave the launch the green light.
The Falcon 9 rocket for this final demonstration mission, dubbed Demo-2, already stands tall at the Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A in Cape Canaveral, Florida, and at the top of that rocket resides the Crew Dragon spacecraft that will loft NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley into space and ferry them to the International Space Station for docking.
Brief static fire tests and extensive inspections transpired on Friday as engineers scoured the systems for any potential obstacles that could impact the success of Wednesday’s launch. None were discovered.
"We did a thorough review of all the systems and all the risks, and it was unanimous on the board that we are 'go for launch'," elucidated NASA associate administrator Stephen Jurczyk.
As you might come to expect, astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley are excited to be at the forefront of this historic launch. Both astronauts have been tested extensively for COVID-19 amid the current health pandemic, and each test has returned negative. The crew are rumored to be tested one more time ahead of Wednesday’s launch to ensure the safety of everyone involved.