All you need to know about Nasa and SpaceX’s manned mission

Nasa and SpaceX are on course to make history on Wednesday as they launch two astronauts into space from US soil for the first time since 2011.

Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley will journey to the International Space Station (ISS) at around 9.30pm UK time on May 27, in a spacecraft built by billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk's firm.

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America goes back to space
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the company's Crew Dragon spacecraft onboard is seen on the launch pad at Launch Complex 39A as preparations continue for the Demo-2 mission at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., Monday, May 25, 2020. (Bill Ingalls/NASA via AP)
NASA astronauts Douglas Hurley, left, and Robert Behnken, wearing SpaceX spacesuits, depart the Neil A. Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building for Launch Complex 39A during a dress rehearsal prior to the Demo-2 mission launch, Saturday, May 23, 2020, at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla. The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, that will send two astronauts to the International Space Station for the first crewed flight from the U.S. in nearly a decade., is scheduled for launch on Wednesday, May 27. (Bill Ingalls/NASA via AP)
Nasa and Space-x teaming up for Wednesday's historic mission. They are sending two astronauts to the international space station. This is the first launch like this in nearly a decade.
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the company's Crew Dragon spacecraft is rolled out of the horizontal integration facility at Launch Complex 39A as preparations continue for the Demo-2 mission, Thursday, May 21, 2020, at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla. (Bill Ingalls/NASA via AP)
NASA astronauts Douglas Hurley, left, and Robert Behnken, wearing SpaceX spacesuits, depart the Neil A. Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building for Launch Complex 39A during a dress rehearsal prior to the Demo-2 mission launch, Saturday, May 23, 2020, at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla. The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, that will send two astronauts to the International Space Station for the first crewed flight from the U.S. in nearly a decade., is scheduled for launch on Wednesday, May 27. (Bill Ingalls/NASA via AP)
NASA astronauts Douglas Hurley, left, and Robert Behnken, wearing SpaceX spacesuits, depart the Neil A. Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building for Launch Complex 39A during a dress rehearsal prior to the Demo-2 mission launch, Saturday, May 23, 2020, at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla. The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, that will send two astronauts to the International Space Station for the first crewed flight from the U.S. in nearly a decade., is scheduled for launch on Wednesday, May 27. (Bill Ingalls/NASA via AP)
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the company's Crew Dragon spacecraft is rolled out of the horizontal integration facility at Launch Complex 39A as preparations continue for the Demo-2 mission, Thursday, May 21, 2020, at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla. (Bill Ingalls/NASA via AP)
Space X will be launching their first man space launch. It will be the first space launch in nearly a decade. The launch is called Launch America.
CAPE CANAVERAL, FLORIDA - MAY 20: NASA astronauts Bob Behnken (left) and Doug Hurley (right) pose for the media after arriving at the Kennedy Space Center on May 20, 2020 in Cape Canaveral, Florida. The astronauts arrived for the May 27th scheduled inaugural flight of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft. They will be the first people since the end of the Space Shuttle program in 2011 to be launched into space from the United States. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
ABC News’ Gio Benitez reports from Cape Canaveral, Florida, where astronauts are preparing to launch into space from American soil for the first time in nearly a decade.
The SpaceX Falcon 9, with the Crew Dragon spacecraft on top of the rocket, sits on Launch Pad 39-A, Monday, May 25, 2020, at Kennedy Space Center, Fla. Two astronauts will fly on the SpaceX Demo-2 mission to the International Space Station scheduled for launch on May 27. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
NASA astronauts Robert Behnken, left, and Douglas Hurley, right, are seen on a monitor showing the crew access arm at Launch Complex 39A during a dress rehearsal prior to the Demo-2 mission launch, Saturday, May 23, 2020, at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla. The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, that will send two astronauts to the International Space Station for the first crewed flight from the U.S. in nearly a decade., is scheduled for launch on Wednesday, May 27. (Joel Kowsky/NASA via AP)
NASA and SpaceX Crew Dragon Demo-2 mission patch, graphic element on black
The crew access arm is swung into position for the Crew Dragon spacecraft and the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket at Launch Complex 39A as preparations continue for the Demo-2 mission, Thursday, May 21, 2020, at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla. (Bill Ingalls/NASA via AP)
NASA astronauts Robert Behnken, left, and Doug Hurley wave as they leave a news conference after they arrived at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., Wednesday, May 20, 2020. The two astronauts will fly on the SpaceX Demo-2 mission to the International Space Station scheduled for launch on May 27. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
Workers near the top of the 526 ft. Vehicle Assembly Building at the Kennedy Space Center spruce up the NASA logo standing on scaffolds in Cape Canaveral, Fla., Wednesday, May 20, 2020. A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket scheduled for May 27 will launch a Crew Dragon spacecraft on its first test flight with astronauts on-board to the International Space Station. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
In this photo provided by NASA astronaut Doug Hurley speaks at a news conference after he arrives at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., Wednesday, May 20, 2020. Hurley and NASA astronaut Bob Behnken will fly on the SpaceX Demo-2 mission to the International Space Station scheduled for launch on May 27. (Bill Ingalls/NASA via AP)
Neighbors in the Timber Grove subdivision wave farewell to astronaut Bob Behnken as he departs his Houston, Texas, neighborhood, Wednesday, May 20, 2020. Behnken is one of two astronauts who will test drive SpaceX's brand new rocketship and return human orbital launches to the U.S. Liftoff is set for May 27 from Florida. (Mark Mulligan/Houston Chronicle via AP)
This illustration made available by NASA in April 2020 depicts Artemis astronauts on the Moon. On Thursday, April 30, 2020, NASA announced the three companies that will develop, build and fly lunar landers, with the goal of returning astronauts to the moon by 2024. The companies are SpaceX, led by Elon Musk; Blue Origin, founded by Amazon’s Jeff Bezos; and Dynetics, a Huntsville, Ala., subsidiary of Leidos. (NASA via AP)
A Falcon 9 SpaceX rocket with a payload of approximately 60 satellites for SpaceX's Starlink broadband network lifts off from pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., Wednesday, March 18, 2020. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
A Falcon 9 SpaceX rocket with a payload of approximately 60 satellites for SpaceX's Starlink broadband network lifts off from pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., Wednesday, March 18, 2020. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
Tesla and SpaceX Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk speaks at the SATELLITE Conference and Exhibition in Washington, Monday, March 9, 2020. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
CAPE CANAVERAL, FLORIDA - MAY 20: Workers freshen up the paint on the NASA logo on the Vehicle Assembly Building before the arrival of NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley at the Kennedy Space Center on May 20, 2020 in Cape Canaveral, Florida. The astronauts are scheduled to arrive today for the May 27th flight of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft. They will be the first people since the end of the Space Shuttle program in 2011 to be launched into space from the United States. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
VLADIVOSTOK, RUSSIA - APRIL 27, 2020: 60 of the Starlink Internet communication satellites of Elon Musk's SpaceX private spaceflight company seen in the night sky. On April 22, 2020, SpaceX successfully launched 60 Starlink satellites into orbit on the Falcon 9 rocket from NASA's Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral. The Starlink project is aimed at providing low-cost internet to remote locations; SpaceX is planning to launch into orbit about 30,000 satellites. Following the launch of the first batch of the Starlink satellites, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) and the US National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) expressed concerns about the satellites being too bright and forming a 'megaconstellation' and thus causing serious problems for astronomers. Yuri Smityuk/TASS (Photo by Yuri Smityuk\TASS via Getty Images)
VLADIVOSTOK, RUSSIA - APRIL 27, 2020: 60 of the Starlink Internet communication satellites of Elon Musk's SpaceX private spaceflight company seen in the night sky. On April 22, 2020, SpaceX successfully launched 60 Starlink satellites into orbit on the Falcon 9 rocket from NASA's Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral. The Starlink project is aimed at providing low-cost internet to remote locations; SpaceX is planning to launch into orbit about 30,000 satellites. Following the launch of the first batch of the Starlink satellites, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) and the US National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) expressed concerns about the satellites being too bright and forming a 'megaconstellation' and thus causing serious problems for astronomers. Yuri Smityuk/TASS (Photo by Yuri Smityuk\TASS via Getty Images)
VLADIVOSTOK, RUSSIA - APRIL 27, 2020: 60 of the Starlink Internet communication satellites of Elon Musk's SpaceX private spaceflight company seen in the night sky. On April 22, 2020, SpaceX successfully launched 60 Starlink satellites into orbit on the Falcon 9 rocket from NASA's Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral. The Starlink project is aimed at providing low-cost internet to remote locations; SpaceX is planning to launch into orbit about 30,000 satellites. Following the launch of the first batch of the Starlink satellites, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) and the US National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) expressed concerns about the satellites being too bright and forming a 'megaconstellation' and thus causing serious problems for astronomers. Yuri Smityuk/TASS (Photo by Yuri Smityuk\TASS via Getty Images)
VLADIVOSTOK, RUSSIA - APRIL 27, 2020: 60 of the Starlink Internet communication satellites of Elon Musk's SpaceX private spaceflight company seen in the night sky. On April 22, 2020, SpaceX successfully launched 60 Starlink satellites into orbit on the Falcon 9 rocket from NASA's Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral. The Starlink project is aimed at providing low-cost internet to remote locations; SpaceX is planning to launch into orbit about 30,000 satellites. Following the launch of the first batch of the Starlink satellites, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) and the US National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) expressed concerns about the satellites being too bright and forming a 'megaconstellation' and thus causing serious problems for astronomers. Yuri Smityuk/TASS (Photo by Yuri Smityuk\TASS via Getty Images)
KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FLORIDA, UNITED STATES - 2020/04/22: People practice social distancing amid the COVID-19 pandemic as they watch a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket successfully launch from pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The rocket is carrying the seventh batch of 60 Starlink satellites that are part of a planned constellation that will provide global broadband internet service. (Photo by Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
SALTBURN BY THE SEA, UNITED KINGDOM - APRIL 20: A Starlink satellite moves across the night sky over Saltburn on April 20, 2020 in Saltburn By The Sea, England. Owned by billionaire CEO Elon Musk, SpaceX aims to create a constellation of 12,000 satellites in the Earth's orbit to improve internet service across the globe. (Photo by Ian Forsyth/Getty Images)
NASA commercial crew astronauts Michael Hopkins and Victor Glover run through a training session at a replica International Space Station (ISS) at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, U.S., May 22, 2019. Picture taken May 22, 2019. REUTERS/Mike Blake
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket exits the atmosphere for a cargo resupply mission to the International Space Station, over Cape Canaveral, Florida, U.S., June 29, 2018. REUTERS/Joey Roulette TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A recycled SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket soars toward space above a Virgin Airlines passenger jet, which had just departed Orlando International Airport, in Orlando, Florida, March 30, 2017. The launch marked the first time ever that a rocket was reused for spaceflight. REUTERS/Gregg Newton
The unmanned SpaceX Crew Dragon lifts off from launch pad 40 during a Pad Abort Test at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Cape Canaveral, Florida May 6, 2015. REUTERS/Scott Audette TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
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It will also be the first time a private company has attempted to send astronauts into space.

Here's everything you need to know about this mission.

– What is the purpose of this mission?

The mission, known as Demo-2, will allow the US to once again send humans into space.

According to Nasa, this is a demonstration mission to show SpaceX's ability to ferry astronauts to the space station and back safely.

It is the final major step required by SpaceX's astronaut carrier, the Crew Dragon, to get certified by Nasa's Commercial Crew Programme for more long-term manned missions to space.

– Who are Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley?

Nasa astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley in their SpaceX spacesuits
Nasa astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley in their spacesuits designed by SpaceX (SpaceX/Nasa/PA)

Mr Behnken, 48, and Mr Hurley, 53, are experienced Nasa astronauts who have been involved in testing of the Crew Dragon capsule.

Mr Hurley, who was a fighter pilot in the US Marine Corps, was on the final flight of the space shuttle Atlantis in 2011 before it was discontinued.

Mr Behnken was a flight test engineer with the US Air Force before joining Nasa, and has spent just over 29 days in space, which includes 37 hours of spacewalking time.

He will serve as the mission's joint operations commander and take responsibility for the rendezvous, docking and undocking of the Dragon capsule, while Mr Hurley will be in charge of the launch, landing and recovery of the vehicle in his role as the Crew Dragon spacecraft commander.

The two men will be wearing spacesuits designed by SpaceX with help from Hollywood costume designer Jose Fernandez.

– How will the astronauts get to the space station?

The Falcon 9 rocket will take off from launchpad 39A at the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida, carrying the Crew Dragon spacecraft with Mr Behnken and Mr Hurley strapped inside.

Shortly after lift-off, the rocket will separate into what is called a first stage and a second stage.

The first stage will return to a SpaceX landing ship which will be stationed in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Florida, while the second part of the rocket continue the journey with the Crew Dragon.

Once in orbit, the Crew Dragon will then separate from the second stage and travel at around 17,000mph before being in a position to rendezvous, and dock, with the space station 24 hours later.

– What will they do when they are in the space station?

The SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida
The SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft at the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida (SpaceX/Nasa/PA)

Mr Behnken and Mr Hurley will test the Crew Dragon's environmental control system, the displays and controls, and the manoeuvring thrusters.

They will also monitor the autonomous docking system during the approach to the space station, according to Nasa.

The duo will become members of the Expedition 63 crew and perform further tests on the Crew Dragon along with other tasks related to the space station.

But the pair's main mission is to conclude the validation process that is required by Nasa to ensure the spacecraft designed to carry astronauts can operate safely.

– How and when will they return?

The Demo-2 mission is expected to last anything between one and four months. But Nasa said the duration of this mission would be determined by when the next commercial crew will be able to travel to the space station.

The spacecraft will be capable of staying in orbit for at least 210 days.

When it is time to return, the Crew Dragon will autonomously undock with Mr Behnken and Mr Hurley on board and depart the space station.

Shortly after firing up its engines to re-enter the Earth's atmosphere, the spacecraft will deploy four parachutes to slow its descent and splash down in the Atlantic Ocean, just off the coast of Florida.

SpaceX's recovery ship, called Go Navigator, will be waiting nearby to retrieve the duo and ferry them to Cape Canaveral.

– Why did Nasa stop sending astronauts into space?

In 2010, the US started to wind down its space shuttle programme which had carried astronauts into orbit for three decades with the aim of focusing on building technology for Moon and Mars missions.

Nasa asked private companies such as Space X and Boeing to design the technologies which would allow passengers to travel to space, while opting to pay Russia to send American astronauts to the space station as an interim arrangement.

– What's next?

pic.twitter.com/iSGrzHgENp

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) May 24, 2020

If Demo-2 is successful, SpaceX will be allowed to go ahead with more manned missions to the space stations as part of their 2.6 billion US dollar (£2.1 billion) contract with Nasa.

Boeing also has a similar deal with the space agency, worth 4.2 billion US dollars (£3.4 billion), to send astronauts to the space station in its CST-100 Starliner crew capsule, although its vehicle is not expected to be ready until next year.

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