WATCH: SpaceX, NASA successfully launches two astronauts into space from US soil
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CAPE CANAVERAL - SpaceX, the private rocket company of billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk, launched two Americans toward orbit from Florida on Saturday in a mission that marks the first spaceflight of NASA astronauts from US soil in nine years.
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifted off from the Kennedy Space Center at 3:22 p.m. EDT (1922 GMT), launching Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken on a 19-hour ride aboard the company's newly designed Crew Dragon capsule bound for the International Space Station.
The mission's first launch try on Wednesday was called off
with less than 17 minutes remaining on the countdown clock due
to stormy weather around the Kennedy Space Center at Cape
Canaveral in Florida.
The forecast for Saturday was likewise precarious with a
50-50 chance of launch. Mission managers plan to make an earlier
decision on weather hazards in a bid to avoid unnecessarily
wearing out the crew with another suit-up and full day of launch
"Back-to-back wet dress rehearsals" disrupt the astronauts'
sleep cycles, NASA chief Jim Bridenstine told a Friday news
Barring weather or other unforeseen problems, the
24-story-tall SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket is due to lift off at 3:22
p.m. EDT (19:22 GMT - 21:22pm CAT), propelling astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob
Behnken aloft on their 19-hour ride to the space station.
WATCH the launch live below:
They will be carried there inside the newly-designed Crew
Dragon capsule, making its first flight into orbit with humans
The launch pad is the same one used by NASA's final space
shuttle flight, piloted by Hurley, in 2011. Since then, NASA
astronauts have had to hitch rides into orbit aboard Russia's
As the crew bid goodbye to their families before getting
into a specially-designed Tesla for the ride to the launch site,
Behnken told his young son, "Be good for mom. Make her life
Bridenstine has said resuming launches of American
astronauts on American-made rockets from U.S. soil is the space
agency's top priority.
For Musk, the launch represents another milestone for the
reusable rockets his company pioneered to make spaceflight less
costly and more frequent. And it would mark the first time
commercially developed space vehicles - owned and operated by a
private entity rather than NASA - have carried Americans into
The last time NASA launched astronauts into space aboard a
brand new vehicle was 40 years ago at the start of the space
NASA astronauts Douglas Hurley, left, and Robert Behnken wave as they exit the Neil A. Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building on their way to Pad 39-A, at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., Saturday, May 30, 2020. The two astronauts will fly on a SpaceX test flight to the International Space Station. For the first time in nearly a decade, astronauts will blast into orbit aboard an American rocket from American soil, a first for a private company. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
If the mission is scrubbed again, the next launch window
would be Sunday afternoon.
Musk, the South African-born high-tech entrepreneur who made
his fortune in Silicon Valley, is also CEO of electric carmaker
and battery manufacturer Tesla Inc. He founded
Hawthorne, California-based SpaceX, formally known as Space
Exploration Technologies, in 2002.
Hurley, 53, and Behnken, 49, NASA employees under contract
to fly with SpaceX, are expected to remain at the space station
for several weeks, assisting a short-handed crew aboard the
Boeing Co, producing its own launch system in
competition with SpaceX, is expected to fly its CST-100
Starliner vehicle with astronauts aboard for the first time next
year. NASA has awarded nearly $8 billion to SpaceX and Boeing
combined for development of their rival rockets.
In this image provided by NASA, a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, with the company's Dragon crew capsule onboard, is illuminated on the launch pad at Launch Complex 39A as preparations continue for NASA's SpaceX Demo-2 mission, Saturday, May 30, 2020, at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla. Despite more storms in the forecast, SpaceX pressed ahead Saturday in its historic attempt to launch astronauts for NASA, a first by a private company. (Joel Kowsky/NASA via AP)