Astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley are set to blast off aboard SpaceX's Crew Dragon spacecraft Wednesday. The mission, which NASA is calling Demo-2, is the first crewed flight to space aboard a commercial spacecraft in history -- making this mission one of the most significant in NASA's long legacy of spaceflight.
Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken were among the first astronauts to begin working and training on SpaceX's next-generation human space vehicle. They were selected for their extensive test pilot and flight experience, including several missions on the space shuttle.
SpaceX tests its engines at a rocket development facility in McGregor, Texas. With 16 specialized test stands, the facility validates every Merlin engine that powers the Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets, and every Draco thruster that controls the Dragon spacecraft.
On May 18, 2020, the Crew Dragon arrived to Launch Complex 39A in NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. It's one of the agency's most storied launch sites, having sent the first astronauts to the moon and supported dozens of space shuttle missions.
Over the last 39 years, almost all trips to space have been made on just two types of spacecraft: The workhorse Soviet/Russian Soyuz system and NASA's Space Shuttle (the exception is the Chinese space program, which has conducted six crewed launches of its Shenzhou spacecraft since 2003).