NASA, SpaceX pick May 27 to resume astronaut launches in US

The operational Crew Dragon spacecraft will be capable of staying in orbit for at least 210 days as a NASA requirement.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine announced the launch date Friday.

Next month, NASA will launch its first astronaut mission from USA soil in nearly a decade.

Since shuttering its Space Shuttle programme in 2011, NASA has relied on Russia's space programme to ferry American astronauts to the station - a space taxi service that's cost roughly $3.4 billion (£2.7 billion) over the last nine years.

NASA astronauts just returned to Earth from the International Space Station aboard the Russian Soyuz spaceship.

In this handout photo released by Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre (GCTC), Roscosmos space agency, US astronaut Andrew Morgan gets assistance shortly after the landing of the Russian Soyuz MS-15 space capsule near Kazakh town of Dzhezkazgan, Kazakhstan, Friday, April 17, 2020.

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Behnken will be the joint operations commander for the mission, responsible for activities such as rendezvous, docking and undocking, as well as Demo-2 activities while the spacecraft is docked to the space station.

Astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley are scheduled for the "Demo 2" flight to the International Space Station.

While the astronauts' home planet fights the global battle against COVID-19, the ISS is also entering a new era as it prepares to welcome the first crew flown by Elon Musk's SpaceX company as early as next month. The agency had previously stated it anticipated a launch in mid-to-late May, but had not given a specific date before this announcement. They will launch from the historic pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center, the same pad used for the Apollo and shuttle programs.

Morgan wrapped up a 272-day mission on his first flight into space which saw him make seven space walks, four of which were to improve and extend the life of the station's Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer. According to the announcement, Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley will travel with SpaceX's Crew Dragon.

Americans Andrew Morgan, Jessica Meir and Russian Oleg Skripochka touched down in central Kazakhstan at 0516 GMT (1.16am yesterday, Singapore time) in the first returning mission since the World Health Organisation declared the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic in March.

SpaceX came up with Crew Dragon and Boeing the Starliner but the Starliner suffered a setback in December during a test run. And January 2020, it demonstrated Crew Dragon's launch escape system for emergencies.

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