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SpaceX Crew Dragon: how to watch and stream schedule for historic launch

SpaceX is about to send humans into space. Here's what to know about the day's schedule, how to watch the launch, and who is involved.

One of the biggest launches in spaceflight history is almost here. On Wednesday, SpaceX is expected to launch the Crew Dragon capsule into space carrying two NASA astronauts, the culmination of years of development work that could kickstart a new era for rocket launches.

Anticipation is running high, and NASA has a packed schedule for its livestream viewers – including a performance of "The Star-Spangled Banner" by singer and all-round American icon Kelly Clarkson.

SpaceX Crew Dragon launch: why it's important

At 4:33 p.m. Eastern time on Wednesday, a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket is scheduled to launch from Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Emblazoned with NASA's retro "worm" logo, it will carry a Crew Dragon capsule on its first manned mission. Inside the capsule are Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley, two NASA astronauts en route to the International Space Station.

Bob Behnken (left) and Doug Hurley prepare for the flight.Joe Raedle/Getty Images News/Getty Images

It's a historic event for NASA and SpaceX. Ever since the shuttle program ended in 2011, NASA has been using Soyuz rockets supplied by Russian agency Roscosmos to send its astronauts to the space station. The launches, taking off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, cost the agency around $80 million per seat. SpaceX, along with Boeing, has been developing a capsule that could take off from the United States and bring the missions closer to home.

Beyond making this awkward arrangement a little bit easier, the move could also usher in a new era for spaceflight. It could mean public agencies and private companies working together to explore the stars. SpaceX, in particular, has grand plans to send the first humans to Mars and start a city as early as 2050. Hurley, who also flew on the last shuttle flight in 2011, told Inverse that he sees co-operation as the future of space exploration:

"To do great things in space, going outside of low-Earth orbit, going to the moon, going to Mars, venturing out into the solar system, I think absolutely it's going to be a combination of the public and private sector in order to be able to accomplish that. There's just too much work. Flying in space is expensive, to a degree, depending on your point of view, and just the innovation and the agility a private company can offer, I think adds a huge amount of capability to be successful in those types of missions. And not only public and private but an international aspect of it as well."

The Crew Dragon launch could be just the beginning of a new, more exploratory era for spaceflight.

SpaceX Crew Dragon launch: how to watch

Watching along is straightforward. At 12:15 p.m. Eastern time, NASA will start its livestream coverage on NASA TV. Viewers can watch NASA TV via YouTube or through pressing play below:

The livestream can also be viewed on a variety of other platforms, available here.

On TV, the Discovery and Science Channel will be hosting Space Launch Live: America Returns to Space at 2 p.m. Eastern time. This live coverage of the launch will feature celebrity appearances from the likes of singer Katy Perry, TV host Adam Savage, former NASA engineer Mark Rober and more.

The team at Cosmic Perspective is also hosting an event with musical performances and discussions dubbed CountdownTogether. This event, livestreamed and including people from across the globe, will take place at 3 p.m. to 5:45 p.m. Eastern time.

SpaceX Crew Dragon: planned livestream schedule

NASA's launch coverage will feature commentary from Marie Lewis, Tahira Allen, Dan Huot, Gary Jordan, and Derrol Nail from NASA, and John Insprucker, Lauren Lyons, and Jessie Anderson from SpaceX. Former NASA astronaut Leland Melvin will also be joining as a special guest.

The post-launch coverage is set to feature Leah Cheshier, Gary Jordan, Courtney Beasley and Dan Huot from NASA, and Siva Bharadvaj, Kate Tice, and Michael Andrews from SpaceX.

NASA has released a schedule for the day's events, explaining what will be taking place when. All times are in Eastern time.

Wednesday, May 27

  • 12:15 p.m. – NASA TV launch coverage is set to start. During the pre-launch coverage, American singer Kelly Clarkson is expected to perform a rendition of "The Star-Spangled Banner."
  • 4:33 p.m. – The Falcon 9 lifts off
  • 5:22 p.m. – Crew Dragon phase burn
  • 6:05 p.m. – Far-field manual flight test
  • 7:05 p.m. – Astronaut downlink event from Crew Dragon
  • 7:30 p.m. – An administrator postlaunch news conference at the Kennedy Space Center.

The final news conference is set to feature the following people:

  • Jim Bridenstine, NASA administrator
  • Kathy Lueders, program manager for NASA's Commercial Crew program
  • A SpaceX representative
  • Kirk Shireman, NASA's International Space Station program director
  • Pat Forrester, NASA chief astronaut who has flown on three space shuttle missions
Jin Bridenstine (left).Joe Raedle/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Thursday, May 28

  • 7:20 a.m. – Astronaut downlink event from Crew Dragon
  • 11:39 a.m. – Docking with the space station
  • 1:55 p.m. – Hatch is set to open
  • 2:25 p.m. – Welcome ceremony
  • 4:15 p.m. – Post-arrival News Conference at the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center

This latter news conference will feature the following people:

  • Jim Bridenstine, NASA administrator
  • Mark Geyer, director of the Johnson center
  • Pat Forrester, NASA chief astronaut who has flown on three space shuttle missions

Friday, May 29

  • 11:05 a.m. – A Space Station crew news conference, with NASA astronauts Chris Cassidy, Bob Behnken, and Doug Hurley
  • 12:50 p.m. – SpaceX employee event and Class of 2020 Mosaic presentation, with NASA astronauts Chris Cassidy, Bob Behnken, and Doug Hurley

SpaceX Crew Dragon: what comes next?

After this mission, SpaceX will be preparing for its first non-test mission, expected for sometime in the third quarter. NASA will be sending up Shannon Walker, Michael Hopkins, and Victor Glover, while Japan’s JAXA will be sending up Soichi Noguchi.

Future plans beyond this mission include private spaceflight trips, which could send up members of the public. With further plans to venture to Mars using the Starship, the sky is no longer the limit.

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