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NASA, SpaceX pick the wee hours of Halloween for next launch of astronauts to the space station

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken in the Crew Dragon capsule, lifts off from Kennedy Space Center, Florida, on May 30, 2020. (Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel/TNS)

NASA and SpaceX are planning to launch another crew of astronauts to the International Space Station from Florida on Halloween morning, following a successful round-trip test mission to the ISS with Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley earlier this year.

Currently scheduled for 2:40 a.m., the historic launch known as Crew-1 will include four passengers, NASA astronauts Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover and Shannon Walker, the first woman to fly on a commercial flight, and Soichi Noguchi of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.

The four of them will lift off from Cape Canaveral inside a Crew Dragon capsule aboard one of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rockets. They’re booked for a six-month stay on the ISS.

Kathy Lueders, newly appointed head of NASA’s human spaceflight office and the first woman to hold the post, said she would have preferred a daytime launch so more people could watch, but said science ultimately drives the launch time.

“We’re going to have a great launch early in the morning instead,” she said.

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The Crew-1 mission was originally scheduled for September but had to be delayed so it wouldn’t interfere with a Russian Soyuz spacecraft that’s set to launch this fall. It’s possible the crew’s stay could overlap with the astronauts selected for NASA’s next Crew-2 mission, which is slated for the spring.

The Crew-1 launch will be only the second time in the past nine years that humans have launched from American soil, after Behnken and Hurley ended that drought in May. That launch, their 63 days in space and successful splashdown in the Gulf of Mexico will serve as the blueprint for this next crewed mission.

“The idea that we’re going from a test vehicle, which is what we flew on DM-2, to now a certified crew vehicle for regular rotation of flights, this is another milestone, a critical milestone in the development of our ability to launch American astronauts on American rockets from American soil now sustainably,” NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said Tuesday.

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© 2020 The Orlando Sentinel

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.