For the first time in nearly a decade, astronauts will launch into space from the United States. The launch is a milestone for SpaceX, which designed the capsule as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. The program encourages private companies to create new spacecraft capable of carrying astronauts to the International Space Station.
SpaceX’s capsule, which will be launched with the help of the Falcon 9 rocket, is called the Crew Dragon, and its two passengers are veteran NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley. The Falcon 9 rocket was supposed to take off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on May 27, but was postponed to Saturday, May 30, due to stormy weather. The astronauts were strapped in and ready for the ride until 15 minutes before the scheduled launch when it became clear the bad weather was here to stay.
— NASA (@NASA) May 27, 2020
Once launched, the plan is for the rocket to release the Crew Dragon capsule into low Earth orbit about 12 minutes after takeoff, after which the rocket will return to Earth. The astronauts will orbit the planet for 19 hours in the capsule, before docking on the International Space Station.
NASA plans to keep the astronauts at the space station for a few months, though an exact time frame hasn’t been set yet. When the time comes for the astronauts’ return, they’ll board the Crew Dragon once again and descend into Earth’s atmosphere, landing in the Atlantic Ocean via parachute.
A version of this article was previously published on May 26, 2020, and was updated on May 28, 2020, with more information.