Technology & Science

SpaceX to launch first official crewed mission to space station

Elon Musk's SpaceX is poised to send a crew of four astronauts to the International Space Station on Saturday evening in NASA's first operational mission using the Crew Dragon capsule.

Four astronauts are scheduled to launch Sunday from the Kennedy Space Center

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket sits on the launch pad at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla. on Four astronauts will be the first crew to return to regular launches from U.S. soil in almost a decade when they lift off on Saturday, November 14. (SpaceX)

Elon Musk's SpaceX is poised to send a crew of four astronauts to the International Space Station on Sunday evening in NASA's first operational mission using the Crew Dragon capsule.

The Crew Dragon capsule, named "Resilience" by its crew, is due to launch atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket at 7:27 p.m. ET on Sunday from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida carrying three U.S. astronauts — Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover, and Shannon Walker — and one from Japan, Soichi Noguchi.

The roughly eight-hour flight to the station will be SpaceX's first operational mission, as opposed to a test, after NASA officials this week signed off on Crew Dragon's design, ending a nearly 10-year development phase for SpaceX under the agency's public-private crew program.

"The history being made this time is we're launching what we call an operational flight to the International Space Station," NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said during a press conference at Kennedy Space Center.

A convoy carrying NASA astronauts Mike Hopkins, Victor Glover, Shannon Walker, and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Soichi Noguchi, are seen as it makes its way to Launch Complex 39A during a dress rehearsal in preparation for the launch of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the company's Crew Dragon spacecraft on NASA’s SpaceX Crew-1 mission. (NASA/Aubrey Gemignani)

Musk, who usually attends high-profile SpaceX missions in person at Kennedy Space Center, said Thursday that he took four coronavirus tests on the same day, with two returning negative and two producing positive results.

Bridenstine, asked on Friday if Musk will be in the launch control room for liftoff on Saturday, said agency policy requires employees to quarantine and self-isolate after testing positive for the disease, "so we anticipate that that will be taking place."

Whether Musk came into contact with the astronauts was unclear, but unlikely since the crew has been in routine quarantine for weeks prior to their flight on Saturday.

NASA contracted SpaceX and Boeing in 2014 to develop competing space capsules aimed at replacing its shuttle program that ended in 2011 and weaning off dependence on Russian rockets to send U.S. astronauts to space.

SpaceX's final test of its capsule came in August, after the company launched and returned the first astronauts from U.S. soil on a trip to the ISS in nearly a decade. Boeing's first crewed test mission with its Starliner capsule is planned for late next year.

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

now