NASA and SpaceX are set to launch a crewed mission Wednesday to the International Space Station from U.S. soil for the first time since 2011.
Two NASA astronauts will be on board the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft in what is the final part of the testing phase of NASA’s work with private companies to return to launching Americans into space.
Since the retirement of the space shuttle program, NASA has relied on partnering with the Russian space agency in order to send U.S. astronauts to the ISS.
U.S. President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence are expected to be at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida for Wednesday’s launch.
There were concerns earlier this week that weather could interfere, but the U.S. Air Force 45th Weather Squadron said Tuesday that prospects seemed to be improving, and that there was a 60% chance of favorable conditions.
If the launch is unable to go forward Wednesday, NASA and SpaceX would try again Saturday.
A Wednesday launch would put the spacecraft on schedule for a Thursday docking at the International Space Station around noon Washington time. The crew includes Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley.
NASA’s aim is to have a cost-effective and safe system to send crews to space. Boeing also has a spacecraft in the testing phase for crewed missions. For cargo deliveries, both SpaceX and Northrop Grumman have sent multiple spacecraft to the ISS in recent years.
NASA said the mission “will provide critical data on the performance of the Falcon 9 rocket, Crew Dragon spacecraft, and ground systems, as well as in-orbit, docking, and landing operations.”