NASA is reportedly targeting an August 2 splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean for the Demo-2 test flight, which sent NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley to the International Space Station (ISS) aboard a Crew Dragon capsule.
“If all goes according to plan, Behnken and Hurley will depart the ISS on Aug. 1 and come back to Earth a day later,” Bridenstine said via Twitter. However, the dates are not cast in stone just yet as he emphasized: “Weather will drive the actual date. Stay tuned.”
Demo-2 launched atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on May 30, reaching the ISS a day later. The duration of the mission remained uncertain until most recently, with NASA officials previously saying that Demo-2 would last between one and four months, depending on how Crew Dragon performed.
Demo-2 is the first orbital human spaceflight to lift off from the United States since NASA’s space shuttle fleet retired in July 2011. Ever since then, NASA had relied on Russian Soyuz spacecraft to get American astronauts to and from orbit, which costs about $90 million per seat. However, the U.S. space agency wanted to put an end to the dependency. Consequently, the agency has been funding the development of private astronaut taxis for the last decade to fill the shuttle’s shoes.
In 2014, SpaceX and Boeing each received multibillion-dollar contracts from NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. The funding was targeted at finishing work on their human spaceflight systems and the subsequent launch of at least six operational missions to the ISS.
After Demo-2’s successful splashdown, SpaceX will be clear to launch the first of those contracted flights. That mission, known as Crew-1, is scheduled to lift off from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Aug. 30.
Boeing’s capsule, called CST-100 Starliner, is not yet ready for carrying astronauts to orbit. The shuttle is required to first refly an uncrewed test flight to the ISS later in 2020. The first attempt at the mission was in December 2019, with the Starliner suffering a glitch with its onboard timing system.
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