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NASA To Launch Astronauts To ISS From U.S. For First Time Since 2011

The United States has been relying on the Russian-operated Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan for manned space flights since 2011. (file photo)

The U.S. space agency NASA and the private company SpaceX have chosen May 27 as the date for the first launch of a crewed flight to the International Space Station (ISS) from the United States since 2011.

"On May 27, @NASA will once again launch American astronauts on American rockets from American soil!" Jim Bridenstine, head of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, said on Twitter on April 17.

The United States has relied on Russian Soyuz rockets to send American astronauts to the ISS for nearly a decade. U.S. astronauts previously flew to the ISS aboard space shuttles, but that program ended in 2011.

The US space agency had said it was aiming for the launch to take place in May but hadn’t set the date. It is sticking with its plan despite the global coronavirus pandemic.

The two-astronaut crew, Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley, will fly to the ISS on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket aboard a Crew Dragon spacecraft also built by SpaceX.

They will lift off at 4:32 p.m. local time on May 27 from the same launchpad used for the Apollo and space shuttle missions at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, NASA said.

Behnken and Hurley have been training for years for the mission, which is expected to move the United States closer to no longer being reliant on Russia for crewed flights.

After the return of two astronauts and one cosmonaut on April 17, a three-member crew made up of one American and two Russians remains aboard the ISS.

Based on reporting by AFP and dpa.