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NASA’s manned launch from US soil on May 27

This article first appeared in the 5/22/20 edition of the Davis Enterprise

NASA’s manned launch from US soil on May 27

Patch of the Crew Dragon Demo. Photo by NASA

NASA’s manned launch from US soil on May 27


by Vinita Domier

Solar System Ambassador and Davis Astronomy Club Coordinator


On Wednesday, May 27, at 1:33pm, NASA is scheduled to launch the first manned spacecraft from the USA since the final Space Shuttle Atlantis mission in 2011. Blasting off from the launch complex at Florida’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) that was previously used for NASA’s Apollo and Space Shuttle programs, the Crew Dragon Demo-2 mission will rendezvous with the International Space Station (ISS) on Thursday, May 28, at around 8:30am.

NASA has contracted SpaceX, a California-based private company, to shuttle cargo and crew from Florida to ISS and back. Since 2012, SpaceX has been successfully delivering supplies to ISS using its own designed, manufactured, and reusable Dragon cargo spacecraft and two-stage Falcon 9 rocket that take off from KSC’s Launch Complex 39A leased by the company from NASA.

SpaceX’s next generation Crew Dragon spacecraft is designed to carry up to 7 passengers and is presently contracted to ferry astronauts to ISS under NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. After a successful Demo-1 non-piloted test flight in 2019, the Demo-2 mission will be the first manned flight for the Crew Dragon with veteran NASA astronauts Douglas Hurley and Robert Behnken onboard testing the spacecraft.

The Crew Dragon spacecraft will rendezvous and autonomously dock to ISS in about 19 hours after launch at an altitude of approximately 220 miles above the Earth. Douglas Hurley and Robert Behnken will join the three ISS crew members for the next two to three months. At the conclusion of the mission, the Crew Dragon with the two astronauts onboard will autonomously undock from ISS. The crew and spacecraft will be recovered by SpaceX from Florida’s Atlantic coast after Earth re-entry and subsequent splash-down.

Due to the current pandemic, the astronauts, their families, and the launch and support crew have been kept under tight quarantine. Also, there will be no public viewing for this historic event at KSC. Instead, everyone is encouraged to stay home and watch the launch live on NASA TV or online at The live views from the launch pad will begin at 9am on May 27 and will provide continuous coverage through the Crew Dragon docking to ISS on May 28, and subsequent hatch opening and welcoming ceremony. There are also Crew Dragon mission updates posted at

NASA has also uploaded a short educational video about the Commercial Crew Program at and SpaceX has posted a brief engaging video animation of the Crew Dragon mission at Also available online is SpaceX’s free simulator at where a wannabe astronaut can manually pilot the Crew Dragon spacecraft to simulate docking to ISS using controls of the actual interface that NASA astronauts train on.


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