Two NASA astronauts preparing to ride SpaceX & # 39; s new space taxi will now have a mission that will take more than a month instead of a week to help short-haul aboard the International Space Station, the US space agency said on Friday.
The launch is scheduled for May 27 from Kennedy Space Center in Florida and will arrive on the ISS the next day. The mission, the first human to transport SpaceX, marks the company’s climatic test before NASA can certify its Crew Dragon capsule for regular operational flights. Space Shuttle veterans Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley are the first astronauts to be launched from the US since the shuttle program ended in 2011.
The expansion of the mission can help Hurley and Behnken replace the station’s batteries, a task that requires an outdoor spacewalk that current ISS resident Chris Cassidy couldn’t do on his own. The two astronauts embraced the mission expansion, with Hurley saying it could take from one to four months.
“I think it’s summer, hopefully with a May 27 launch date, that we have a good time so that my son can follow the mission a little bit better than if he were in school,” Behnken said. SpaceX and Boeing Co have received a combined 7 billion to build separate crew transport systems as part of the Commercial Crew Program, NASA’s flagship campaign to leverage the private sector for ISS missions and their dependence on Russian Soyuz curb rocket.
“We are currently supporting the station with the bare minimum,” NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said Friday. & # 39; Without the presence of Behnken and Hurley, otherwise we would likely delay such an operation until additional NASA crew members are available. & # 39; Kirk Shireman, NASA’s ISS program manager, told reporters on Friday that the agency is basing the duration of Hurley and Behnken’s mission on how quickly SpaceX can complete preparations for its next capsule.
Delays in the development of both SpaceX and Boeing vehicles have led NASA to become more dependent on Russia, forcing the space agency to purchase additional seats on the Soyuz rocket to transport more astronauts to space.