Two NASA astronauts preparing to ride SpaceX’s new space taxi will now be on a mission planned to last over a month, instead of a week, to assist the short-handed crew aboard the International Space Station (ISS), the U.S. space agency said Friday.
The launch is scheduled for May 27 from Kennedy Space Facility in Florida and will arrive at the ISS the subsequent day. The mission, SpaceX’s first carrying humans, marks the company’s climactic test before NASA can approve its Crew Dragon capsule for regular operational flights.
Space Shuttle operators Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley are set to be the first astronauts launched from American soil since the shuttle program was terminated in 2011.
The mission’s extension permits Hurley and Behnken to help swap out the station’s batteries, a job that requires an out of doors spacewalk the present U.S. resident on the ISS, Chris Cassidy, couldn’t do alone.
The two astronauts welcomed the mission extension, with Hurley saying it could last anywhere from one to four months.
SpaceX and Boeing Co BA.N. have been awarded a combined $7 billion to construct separate crew transportation systems under the Commercial Crew Program, NASA’s flagship campaign to make use of the private industry for ISS missions and stop its reliance on Russia’s Soyuz rocket.