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NASA and SpaceX are now targeting mid-May for the first crewed orbital launch from American soil in nearly a decade, a mission called Demo-2.
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"SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket will launch Crew Dragon, with NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley aboard the spacecraft, from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. NASA and SpaceX are currently targeting no earlier than mid-to-late May for launch," said NASA in a statement.
A second demonstration
"This second demonstration mission of the Crew Dragon spacecraft is another end-to-end flight test of SpaceX’s human spaceflight system, which will include launch, docking, splashdown and recovery operations. It is the final flight test of the system before SpaceX is certified to carry out operational crew flights to and from the space station for NASA."
The mid-May date is in line with previous reports, but just like other launch targets, it could be changed at a later date. NASA and SpaceX also revealed in their statement that they were carefully monitoring the SARS CoV-2 coronavirus outbreak which could cause some delays.
"NASA is proactively monitoring the coronavirus (COVID-19) situation as it evolves. The agency will continue to follow guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the agency’s chief health and medical officer and communicate any updates that may impact mission planning or media access, as they become available," read NASA's statement.
Contracted crew flights
Demo-2 will mark the second flight to the International Space Station (ISS) for the Crew Dragon. In March 2019, one of the capsules conducted an uncrewed test flight to the ISS and passed with flying colors. The mission was called Demo-1.
If all goes well with Demo-2, SpaceX could begin launching contracted crew flights.
"NASA’s Commercial Crew Program is working with the American aerospace industry through a public-private partnership to launch astronauts on American rockets and spacecraft from American soil. The goal of the program is to provide safe, reliable, and cost-effective transportation to and from the space station, which will allow for additional research time and will increase the opportunity for discovery aboard humanity’s testbed for exploration." read NASA's statement.