SpaceX's next launch will officially have astronauts on board
It's official: the Space Coast's next launch will have astronauts on board.
Due to the impacts of Tropical Storm Arthur, SpaceX confirmed Monday that its planned Tuesday flight of 60 Starlink satellites will have to wait until after astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley launch from Kennedy Space Center on May 27. Starlink had been scheduled to launch at 3:10 a.m.
The tropical storm had already caused issues for SpaceX's recovery fleet, which had to shift around the Atlantic Ocean several times and seek shelter. The vessels, one of which includes the Of Course I Still Love You drone ship, are responsible for hosting Falcon 9 booster landings and catching falling rocket nose cones.
With the Starlink mission delayed, SpaceX teams can now focus on Crew Dragon's next flight, known as Demo-2. NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine confirmed last week that the capsule is still solidly on the schedule for liftoff from pad 39A at 4:33 p.m. May 27.
Bridenstine told FLORIDA TODAY that Behnken and Hurley are slated to depart Houston and arrive at Kennedy Space Center on Wednesday, after which they will continue their coronavirus quarantine procedures – which began last week – ahead of liftoff.
"It looks like they are in very good health and we don't anticipate that between now and the day of launch there's really going to be an opportunity for them to contract any virus or harmful bacteria," Bridenstine said. "I think we're in good shape and we're excited about launching them to the International Space Station."
On launch day, the duo will ride out to the pad in a NASA-branded vehicle, as is tradition. But it won't be the famous Astrovan – this time, a Tesla Model X all-electric SUV will transport both to pad 39A.
If all goes according to plan, the former shuttle astronauts will spend about 24 hours in Crew Dragon before their arrival at the ISS. It will mark the first time in nearly a decade that American astronauts have launched from U.S. soil.
In the event that SpaceX and NASA have to delay from the 27th, the next opportunity to launch Demo-2 would fall on May 30.
Contact Emre Kelly at email@example.com or 321-242-3715. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram at @EmreKelly. Support his space journalism by subscribing at floridatoday.com/specialoffer/.