SpaceX launch: When is it and how can you watch it?

26 May 2020, 20:23

The SpaceX rocket will be launched on Wednesday
The SpaceX rocket will be launched on Wednesday. Picture: PA

By Maddie Goodfellow

SpaceX is set to launch two NASA astronauts into space - the first crewed mission in the project's history.

The mission, called Demo-2, will be the first launch of NASA astronauts from the US since 2011.

SpaceX is an American aerospace manufacturer owned by Tesla CEO Elon Musk.

Astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley will travel to the International Space Station

NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine has called it “a new generation, a new era in spaceflight.”

But when is the launch and can you watch it in the UK?

Liftoff is on Wednesday
Liftoff is on Wednesday. Picture: PA

What is the purpose of the SpaceX launch?

Demo-2 is the final major step required by SpaceX's astronaut carrier, the Crew Dragon, to get certified by Nasa's Commercial Crew Programme for more long-term manned missions to space.

It is being used as a demonstration mission to show SpaceX's ability to ferry astronauts to the space station and back safely.

Once in space, the astronauts will test the Crew Dragon's environmental control system, the displays and controls, and the manoeuvring thrusters.

They will also monitor the autonomous docking system during the approach to the space station, according to Nasa.

The Demo-2 mission is expected to last anything between one and four months but the spacecraft will be capable of staying in orbit for up to 210 days.

the mission is a joint effort between SpaceX and NASA
the mission is a joint effort between SpaceX and NASA. Picture: PA

What time is the SpaceX launch?

The launch had been scheduled for 5.33pm BST (4.33pm EDT, 1.33pm PDT) on Wednesday but was postponed due to bad weather.

The launch date has now been moved to Saturday at 8:22 pm UK time.

How can you watch the SpaceX launch in the UK?

Nasa has advised people to enjoy the event online rather than attempt to see it in-person due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The launch will broadcast live on NASA TV, leading up to liftoff and then continuing through docking the next day. 

You can register to see it live here.

Elon Musk is CEO of SpaceX
Elon Musk is CEO of SpaceX. Picture: PA

Who are Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley?

Mr Behnken, 48, and Mr Hurley, 53, are experienced Nasa astronauts who have been involved in testing of the Crew Dragon capsule.

Mr Hurley, who was a fighter pilot in the US Marine Corps, was on the final flight of the space shuttle Atlantis in 2011 before it was discontinued.

Mr Behnken was a flight test engineer with the US Air Force before joining Nasa, and has spent just over 29 days in space, which includes 37 hours of spacewalking time.

He will serve as the mission's joint operations commander and take responsibility for the rendezvous, docking and undocking of the Dragon capsule, while Mr Hurley will be in charge of the launch, landing and recovery of the vehicle in his role as the Crew Dragon spacecraft commander.

The two men will be wearing spacesuits designed by SpaceX with help from Hollywood costume designer Jose Fernandez.

How will the astronauts get to the International Space Station?

The Falcon 9 rocket will take off from launchpad 39A at the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida, carrying the Crew Dragon spacecraft with Mr Behnken and Mr Hurley strapped inside.

Shortly after lift-off, the rocket will separate into what is called a first stage and a second stage.

The first stage will return to a SpaceX landing ship which will be stationed in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Florida, while the second part of the rocket continue the journey with the Crew Dragon.

Once in orbit, the Crew Dragon will then separate from the second stage and travel at around 17,000mph before being in a position to rendezvous, and dock, with the space station 24 hours later.

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