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Here are 9 things you should know ahead of SpaceX’s historic launch

2 astronauts to launch from American soil for first time since 2011

The SpaceX Falcon 9, with the Crew Dragon spacecraft on top of the rocket, sits on Launch Pad 39-A Monday, May 25, 2020, at Kennedy Space Center, Fla. Two astronauts will fly on the SpaceX Demo-2 mission to the International Space Station scheduled for launch on May 27. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
The SpaceX Falcon 9, with the Crew Dragon spacecraft on top of the rocket, sits on Launch Pad 39-A Monday, May 25, 2020, at Kennedy Space Center, Fla. Two astronauts will fly on the SpaceX Demo-2 mission to the International Space Station scheduled for launch on May 27. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Florida’s Space Coast is preparing for liftoff -- the first launch since 2011 that will send astronauts back into space from American soil.

You don’t have to be a NASA aficionado to know that this launch from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center will be history-making. To catch up before the big event, here are nine reasons to be out-of-this-world excited to watch the takeoff.

Why this launch is historic

CAPE CANAVERAL, FLORIDA - MAY 26: The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the Crew Dragon spacecraft attached is prepared for tomorrow's scheduled liftoff from launch pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center on May 25, 2020 in Cape Canaveral, Florida.  NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley will be aboard the May 30th inaugural flight and will be the first people since the end of the Space Shuttle program in 2011 to be launched into space from the United States. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
CAPE CANAVERAL, FLORIDA - MAY 26: The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the Crew Dragon spacecraft attached is prepared for tomorrow's scheduled liftoff from launch pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center on May 25, 2020 in Cape Canaveral, Florida. NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley will be aboard the May 30th inaugural flight and will be the first people since the end of the Space Shuttle program in 2011 to be launched into space from the United States. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images) (2020 Getty Images)

Even if you don’t live along the Space Coast it’s hard not to experience the fanfare that a launch in Central Florida brings, but why is this launch so historic?

For starters, this is the first time astronauts will be launched into space from American soil since 2011. Over the last nine years, a lot has changed since then, including the science and safety for propelling two people out into orbit.

The launch scheduled for Wednesday also marks the first time a private spacecraft will carry astronauts into orbit in the history of space exploration. Elon Musk’s SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon capsule will make that historic achievement.

SpaceX was founded by Musk in 2010 with a mission to privatize space exploration and seek “safe, reliable and cost-effective crew transportation to and from the ISS."

How to watch

The most important thing to know is when and how to watch the launch and follow along. This mission, known as Demo-2, is scheduled to launch Saturday at 3:22 p.m. ET after the initial launch was scrubbed Wednesday due to poor weather conditions.

You can watch on ClickOrlando.com through the News 6 virtual watch party and follow updates from News 6 reporters at Kennedy Space Center. SpaceX.com and NASA.gov will also have live launch coverage of the countdown.

If the launch scrubs on Saturday, SpaceX has another backup window at 3 p.m. Sunday.

No longer paying Russia for a ride

In this handout photo released by Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre (GCTC), Roscosmos space agency, the Soyuz MS-15 space capsule carrying International Space Station (ISS) crew members descends beneath a parachute just before landing in a remote area near Kazakh town of Dzhezkazgan, Kazakhstan, Friday, April 17, 2020. An International Space Station crew has landed safely after more than 200 days in space. The Soyuz capsule carrying NASA astronauts Andrew Morgan, Jessica Meir and Russian space agency Roscosmos' Oleg Skripochka touched down on Friday on the steppes of Kazakhstan. (Andrey Shelepin, Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre (GCTC), Roscosmos space agency, via AP)
In this handout photo released by Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre (GCTC), Roscosmos space agency, the Soyuz MS-15 space capsule carrying International Space Station (ISS) crew members descends beneath a parachute just before landing in a remote area near Kazakh town of Dzhezkazgan, Kazakhstan, Friday, April 17, 2020. An International Space Station crew has landed safely after more than 200 days in space. The Soyuz capsule carrying NASA astronauts Andrew Morgan, Jessica Meir and Russian space agency Roscosmos' Oleg Skripochka touched down on Friday on the steppes of Kazakhstan. (Andrey Shelepin, Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre (GCTC), Roscosmos space agency, via AP) (Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre (GCTC), Roscosmos space agency)

The Space Shuttle, which carried NASA astronauts into space for 30 years, retired in July 2011, and since then, the U.S. has paid Russia about $80 million a seat to send it American astronauts into orbit. NASA has relied on the Russian Soyuz spacecraft to get astronauts to and from the International Space Station.

In 2014, NASA awarded $2.6 billion to SpaceX under the commercial crew program to develop, test and fly a human-rated spacecraft into low earth orbit. Boeing was also awarded $4.2 billion from NASA to do the same.

By partnering with private companies under the Commercial Crew Program, NASA hopes to lower the cost of launching its astronauts to the ISS. With SpaceX, NASA will be paying about $55 million a seat to fly NASA astronauts, according to a NASA Office of Inspector General report.

Meet the astronauts: ‘Bob and Doug’

Astronauts might have one of the most interesting jobs in the world (or out of this world), and the men who will be aboard the Crew Dragon have quite the resume to back up their credentials.

[READ MORE: Calm under pressure: 2 NASA astronauts prepare to return glory of human spaceflight to America]

Veteran astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken, or “Bob and Doug” as NASA leaders affectionately call them, have a combined 1,400 of spaceflight hours between them.

Both former military test pilots, Behnken described their upcoming flight as a “dream job” conducing a test mission aboard a new spacecraft, the Crew Dragon.

Behnken and Hurley were both selected as part of NASA astronaut class in 2000, but prior to joining the U.S. space agency, both logged thousands of hours in more than 25 different aircraft as test pilots.

In this Thursday, March 19, 2020 photo made available by SpaceX, astronauts Doug Hurley, foreground, and Bob Behnken work in SpaceX's flight simulator at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., as SpaceX teams in Firing Room 4 at Kennedy Space Center and the company's Mission Control in Hawthorne, Calif., along with NASA flight controllers in Mission Control Houston, run a full simulation of launch and docking of the Crew Dragon spacecraft. (SpaceX via AP)
In this Thursday, March 19, 2020 photo made available by SpaceX, astronauts Doug Hurley, foreground, and Bob Behnken work in SpaceX's flight simulator at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., as SpaceX teams in Firing Room 4 at Kennedy Space Center and the company's Mission Control in Hawthorne, Calif., along with NASA flight controllers in Mission Control Houston, run a full simulation of launch and docking of the Crew Dragon spacecraft. (SpaceX via AP) (Here is our public domain dedication. https://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/)

President, Vice President to attend

Floridians aren’t the only ones wanting to catch a glimpse of lift-off along the Space Coast.

President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence will both be at the Kennedy Space Center for countdown, according to White House officials.

The president, who has directed the Department of Defense to establish the U.S. Space Force as the sixth branch of the armed forces, has said it is his goal to reassert American dominance in space, according to the White House.

“Our destiny, beyond the Earth, is not only a matter of national identity but a matter of national security," Trump said.

The last president to attend an astronauts launch from Florida was President Bill Clinton. President Barack Obama was here in 2011 for one of the final space shuttle launches but the launch was scrubbed.

Flying in a brand new spacecraft

Once in orbit, Behnken and Hurley will have the chance to test out their brand new spacecraft and verify the Crew Dragon is performing as intended. Hurley will be able to manually fly the spacecraft during several opportunities before they reach the space station.

The astronauts will also eat, sleep and be able to use the bathroom on Crew Dragon for the first time.

It will then take about 19 hours for the Crew Dragon to reach the ISS for docking.

Although the Crew Dragon is designed to dock with the ISS autonomously, the astronauts aboard have the capability to do so manually should plans go awry.

Ever wanted to try your hand at docking a spacecraft aboard the ISS?

SpaceX released a docking simulator Behnken and Hurley have used during training for the return of human spaceflight to the U.S. soil to the space station.

Click here to see if you’ve got what it takes to make it to the ISS.

What’s the plan after the astronauts reach the ISS?

Behnken and Hurley’s successful launch into orbit is part of their mission but docking and returning to Earth safely are the other critical milestones for a successful test flight.

While on the ISS the astronauts will live and work on the orbiting laboratory conducting science experiments.

The two astronauts will join others already aboard the ISS: NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy and Russian cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner.

The length of Behnken and Hurley’s stay on the ISS is unclear but will last at least a month or as long as four months depending on when the next Crew Dragon mission is ready to fly.

There’s a big contingency plan should anything go wrong during the launch

No chances are being taken when it comes to the safety of the astronauts. If anything is even slightly less than ideal, all parties involved in the launch will delay it until conditions improve, which is why the launch was initially scrubbed Wednesday afternoon after the astronauts and fuel had already been boarded.

There are certain launch and recovery criteria NASA and SpaceX must meet in order to get the rocket along with the two astronauts off the ground in the Crew Dragon spacecraft.

[RELATED: What happens if NASA astronauts need to abort?]

Should something go wrong or malfunction after launch occurs, the Crew Dragon is equipped with thrusters to propel itself away from the Falcon 9 rocket, aborting the mission.

In January, SpaceX intentionally blew up one of its own rockets to test the Crew Dragon’s ability to keep astronauts safe in the event of a Falcon 9 rocket launch failure.

Should a failure occur and an emergency abort is activated, the Crew Dragon will deploy parachutes and land in one of many zones in the Atlantic Ocean, anywhere from Florida’s coast to the water surrounding Ireland, to return Behnken and Hurley safely.

What’s next for SpaceX?

NASA astronauts Victor Glover, left, and Michael Hopkins, right, in front of a mock up of the SpaceX Crew Dragon on Aug. 3, 2018 at NASA's Johnson Space Center. (Photo: Emilee Speck/WKMG)
NASA astronauts Victor Glover, left, and Michael Hopkins, right, in front of a mock up of the SpaceX Crew Dragon on Aug. 3, 2018 at NASA's Johnson Space Center. (Photo: Emilee Speck/WKMG)

NASA and SpaceX are already preparing to send another Crew Dragon spacecraft to the ISS with three NASA astronauts and one Japanese astronaut on board. NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said that launch is on track for August 30, depending how this test mission goes.

In addition to the NASA commercial crew program, SpaceX has wasted no time preparing for future private missions, pushing forward with the development of the Starship and Super Heavy launch system, all with the intention to take humans to the moon and Mars in a space tourism program.

Seats aboard the Starship will likely cost no less than $20 million and may even include visits to the company’s touted “space hotels” which may be in development for a 2021 preview.

NASA also recently selected SpaceX’s Starship, along with several other commercial companies, to fly NASA astronauts to the moon under the Artemis program.


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