NASA Friday set a launch date of May 27 for its first astronaut mission from U.S. soil in almost a decade.
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine tweeted that billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk’s space firm – SpaceX – will send two NASA astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) aboard its Falcon 9 rocket from Florida – making the company’s first mission carrying humans aboard.
The U.S. space agency had previously stated the mission, in which NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley, will ride SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule to the ISS, would launch sometime in May.
As with most high-profile expeditions, the new date could slip. If all goes as planned, the mission will mark the first time NASA launches its astronauts from U.S. soil since the 2011 grounding of the space shuttle.
NASA has since relied on Russia’s space program to send astronauts to the space station.
A decade in the making, next month’s mission is the final test for Crew Dragon before usually flying humans for NASA under its Commercial Crew Program, a public-private project. Boeing is developing its competing Starliner astronaut taxi as the agency’s second trip to space.
NASA is also mulling whether or not to extend Behnken and Hurley’s stay aboard the space station from a week as originally planned to up to six months in order to guarantee U.S. astronauts are staffed on the station repeatedly.