HomeTechThe rocket science behind the SpaceX astronaut launch

The rocket science behind the SpaceX astronaut launch

Two NASA astronauts, Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley, have finally made history by travelling to the International Space Station in a privately funded spacecraft, SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon capsule. The launch was initially due to take place on May 27 but had to be be postponed due to bad weather. It launched at 3.22pm EST on May 30.

The astronauts took off lying on their backs in the seats, and facing in the direction of travel to reduce the stress of high acceleration on their bodies. Launching from Kennedy Space Centre, the spacecraft travelled out over the Atlantic, turning to travel in a direction that matches the ISS orbit.

The first rocket section separated at just over two minutes. The main dragon capsule separated from the second stage burn a few minutes later and continued its journey. The Dragon spacecraft finally docked with the ISS about 19 hours after launch.

Space mission launches and landings are the most critical parts. However, Space X has conducted many tests, including 27 drops of the parachute landing system. It has also managed an emergency separation of the Dragon capsule from the rocket. In the event of a failed rocket launch, eight engines would lift the capsule containing the astronauts up into the air and away from the rocket, with parachutes eventually helping it to land. The Falcon 9 rocket has made 83 successful launches.

Docking and return

The space station has an orbital velocity of 7.7km per second. The Earth’s rotation carries launch sites under a straight flight path of the ISS, with each instance providing a “launch window”.