CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (WFLA) – We have liftoff!
NASA launched its first-ever commercial crewed mission from Florida’s Space Coast on Saturday afternoon. It’s also the first time American astronauts have launched from U.S. soil since 2011.
The SpaceX Demo-2 mission was initially scheduled to take place Wednesday but had to be scrubbed less than 20 minutes before liftoff due to unfavorable weather. Weather was once again a concern on Saturday but eventually cleared up for an on-time launch of 3:22 p.m. ET.
Behnken and Hurley got suited up and said goodbye to their families around 12 p.m. ET before heading to Kennedy Space Center’s historic Launch Complex 39A.
By 1 p.m. ET, the two NASA astronauts were buckled into their seats and completing communication checks with the NASA and SpaceX teams in preparation for launch.
The hatch on the Dragon capsule closed just before 1:30 p.m. ET, less than two hours out from the targeted liftoff.
Weather was still iffy about one hour out from the launch but cleared up and was given a go in time for the propellant loading stage.
The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the Crew Dragon spacecraft with Behnken and Hurley inside lifted off right on time from Kennedy Space Center’s historic Launch Complex 39A.
“God speed Bob and Doug!” NASA officials said as the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the Crew Dragon spacecraft launched. “America has launched!”
The Demo-2 mission marks a new era of human spaceflight. NASA describes as the final major step before the Commercial Crew Program certifies Crew Dragon for long-duration missions to the space station.
Shortly after liftoff and second stage separation, the Falcon 9 booster landed on the “Of Course I Still Love You” droneship. Saturday marked the first time Falcon 9 carried a human into orbit.
After the Dragon capsule officially separated, Behnken and Hurley started communicating with teams on the ground, thanking them for a smooth launch.
“Proud of you guys and the rest of the team,” they said. “Thank you so much for what you’ve done for us today – putting America back into low-Earth orbit from the Florida coast.”
It will take Behnken and Hurley about 19 hours to make it 250 miles above Earth to the International Space Station. NASA expects them to dock around 10:29 a.m. ET on Sunday. A welcome ceremony is scheduled for 1:05 p.m. ET.
Once the two astronauts get there, they will stay on the space station for up to four months.