If you can, be sure to watch today’s launch of FOUR astronauts to ISS at 6:27pm today! SpaceX has been ticking off milestones at a fast rate for the past few years, and this is a big one. This is the first operational NASA-sponsored launch, although SpaceX did launch two astronauts for their Demo-1 mission earlier this year. The Demo-1 mission was the final item on the checklist for getting SpaceX’s Falcon 9 and Crew Dragon certified for a human spaceflight rating. The launch is significant for being the first operational mission of a privately developed spacecraft certified for human flight. This now gives NASA and the United States the ability to deliver astronauts to ISS without the need to rely on the Russian space program. We lost the ability with the retirement of the Space Shuttle.
After the Falcon 9 booster delivers the second stage and Crew Dragon capsule to space, it will flip around and fire its engines to slow down and return to Earth, landing on a drone ship in the Atlantic. The ability to return and land the booster helps to bring down the cost of launches, because the booster can be refurbished and returned to service relatively quickly. You should be able to view the launch from live camera feeds at Launch Complex 39A (Kennedy Space Center), as well as aboard the rocket and on the drone ship. There’s nothing quite like seeing a huge rocket land on its tail on a drone ship at sea. Well worth taking time to view!
There are a lot of places to watch the launch online, but if you aren’t super-up-to-date on our space program, I’d recommend the YouTube feed from Tim Dowd, know as the Everyday Astronaut. Lots of explanations for everything that’s going on. His feed is live now, and will continue through launch. You can catch it at https://youtu.be/IQCWqlHAaL8