SpaceX and NASA are preparing for a historic moment: today, they plan to launch two astronauts in a commercial spaceflight for the first time in the records. If the weather permits, NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley will fly on board of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft, carried by a Falcon 9 rocket, and take off to Earth’s orbit.
The plan calls for them to arrive at the International Space Station (ISS) on Sunday morning. This is a rather risky attempt as NASA has not launched its own astronauts since 2011, and since SpaceX is a relatively new company – founded in 2002 by Elon Musk – has not flown humans before.
What Happens in Case of an Emergency
However, SpaceX has prepared an advanced emergency-abort system, which will activate in case something happens during the flight. In the event of a rocket failure, the Crew Dragon capsule should detach from the Falcon 9 and emit a series of eight SuperDraco engines in order to make an escape. The power should send the spaceship away from danger, with the two astronauts inside.
At a safe distance from the rocket, the capsule would then deploy a set of four massive parachutes and get to the Atlantic Ocean, where the rescue team would collect the astronauts.
Crew Dragon Demo-2 mission is set to launch at 8.33 BST (3.33 pm ETD, 12.33 pm PDT) from Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The astronauts will fly at more than 17,000mph towards the ISS, which is about 250 miles above Earth.
If the mission goes well, Behnken and Hurley will spend a total of 19 hours in orbit before reaching the space station, and skywatchers may even have a chance to see the rocket in the skies at night.
Watch the SpaceX Launch Live
The Demo-2 mission launch will be broadcast live online thanks to NASA and SpaceX. You can watch it now on SpaceX’s YouTube channel below: