SpaceX and NASA have been working for years on today’s Crew-1 mission, which will launch from Florida at 7:27 PM EST (4:27 PM PST). This is the first time that SpaceX’s Dragon capsule and Falcon 9 rocket have been officially used as NASA – certified spacecraft for human flight in space travel. NASA astronauts Mike Hopkins, Victor Glover, Shannon Walker and Jaxa astronaut Sochi Noguchi will travel aboard the Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station on Sunday night without delay.
SpaceX has already flown people with a dragon – NASA astronauts Bob Bencken and Doug Hurley – the first man to be launched into the ISS on a commercial spacecraft while participating in SpaceX’s Demo 2 mission earlier this year. It was clearly a historic achievement, but technically it was the final stage of the SpaceX test and demonstration program for the Dragon and Falcon 9, while today’s Crew-1 launch does not qualify as an experiment. Think of it this way: if the Demo-2 was similar to the Wright Brothers’ Kitty Hawk aircraft, the Crew-1 would be the same as the first commercial flight service scheduled for 1914 in the US.
The first astronauts to fly to the Dragon will be Crew-1 (there will be a total of six seats, but NASA said that only a maximum of four partners and partner agency crew will fly to ISS on these flights). The astronauts will join the existing crew of the RSS for a regular tour of the stations to maintain and upgrade, which will see an additional astronaut-active ISS population increase for the first time during a normal rotation, i.e. further according to the science agency.
The launch system is designed to be fully automated, meaning that no action is required from the launch and the crew of the boat through docking with the RSS. The same is true of the return trip, which will take place next June.
Using an autonomous drone landing ship in the Atlantic Ocean, SpaceX will attempt to recover the first stage booster used during this launch.
Everything should start close to the liftoff target time, but every day programming related to the Crew-1 mission and the Dragon program will be on NASA.