SpaceX has fired up the rocket that will launch the first crewed mission in the company's history.
The company conducted a static-fire test Thursday (Aug. 29) of a Falcon 9 rocket at the SpaceX testing ground in McGregor, Texas, company representatives said. That booster will send a Crew Dragon capsule carrying NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley to the International Space Station (ISS) in the near future.
Behnken and Hurley were excited to see their rocket ride strut its stuff.
Really wish @Astro_Doug and I could have joined @SpaceX's McGregor team for this! Huge step on the path to bringing human spaceflight back to @NASAKennedy and the Florida coast, we won't miss engine start next time! https://t.co/tWnmnNOGnQAugust 30, 2019
"Really wish @Astro_Doug and I could have joined @SpaceX's McGregor team for this! Huge step on the path to bringing human spaceflight back to @NASAKennedy and the Florida coast, we won't miss engine start next time!" Behnken said via Twitter on Friday (Aug. 30).
Congratulations to the Team! @AstroBehnken and I are looking forward to that ride to orbit. https://t.co/dERir5lencAugust 30, 2019
"Congratulations to the Team! @AstroBehnken and I are looking forward to that ride to orbit," Hurley added that day in a tweet of his own.
NASA signed multibillion-dollar commercial-crew deals with both SpaceX and Boeing in September 2014. The space agency is counting on these two companies to provide taxi services to and from the orbiting lab, a job that has been done only by Russian Soyuz spacecraft since July 2011, when NASA retired its space shuttle fleet.
SpaceX will use Crew Dragon and the Falcon 9 for this work, and Boeing will employ its CST-100 Starliner capsule and, at least initially, United Launch Alliance Atlas V rockets.
Crew Dragon has already visited the ISS once, this past March on a successful six-day, uncrewed test mission known as Demo-1. The landmark test flight of Behnken and Hurley, Demo-2, seemed imminent at that point. But then, in April, that same Crew Dragon exploded during a test of its SuperDraco launch-abort engines.
It's currently unclear when Demo-2 will get off the ground or when Starliner will make its first (uncrewed) visit to the ISS.
"We are testing, learning and incorporating changes to improve the design and operation of these next-generation human space-transportation systems," NASA officials wrote in the latest commercial-crew schedule update, which was published on July 30. "As a result, our providers have improved the safety of these systems, and the effect of these changes have impacted schedules."
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Mike Wall's book about the search for alien life, "Out There (opens in new tab)" (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), is out now. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook.