SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon spacecraft are preparing for the historic Demo-2 mission to launch NASA astronauts into space from the United States for the first time since 2011.
A photo released by NASA on Thursday showed the Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon being raised in a vertical position at the launch of the Kennedy Space Center’s 39A pad, also used for Apollo and space shuttle programs. NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken are set to launch at 4:33 p.m. EDT on May 27th.
This is the first time that a private company, rather than a national government, is sending astronauts into orbit.
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“A new era of human spaceflight is set to begin,” NASA said in a joint statement.
SpaceX also tweeted a time-lapse video of the preparations Thursday.
Launched above the Falcon 9 rocket, the Crew Dragon will accelerate at approximately 17,000 mph, according to NASA, setting a course capsule for the International Space Station.
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Hurley and Behnken flew to the Kennedy Space Center on Wednesday, exactly one week before their historic flight on SpaceX.
Under normal circumstances, large crowds are expected to witness the historic launch but, citing concerns about coronavirus pandemics, NASA has encouraged people to stay away. Hundreds of thousands of people boarded the area near the Kennedy Space Center for the last shuttle launch in July 2011, according to Spaceflight Now.
Earlier this week, former NASA astronaut Mike Massimino, a veteran of the two-space shuttle mission, told Fox News that he was eagerly awaiting the historic launch. “Launching astronauts from American soil is huge,” he said.
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The STS-135, the last space shuttle mission, was launched from the Kennedy Space Center on July 8, 2011. The space shuttle Atlantis brought four NASA astronauts on a mission to resupply the ISS, as well as an experiment for robotically refueling satellites in space.
Since then, the United States has relied on Russian Soyuz rockets launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan to get astronauts into space. Russia has charged the United States about $ 75 million to send an astronaut into space.
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Last week, NASA agreed to pay Russian space agency Roscosmos $ 90 million for a final seat on one of its Soyuz rockets.
Fox News’ Kristin Fisher, Lauren Blanchard and The Associated Press contributed to this article. Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers