SpaceX launch was ‘smoother’ than space shuttle

SPACE ― The pair of astronauts who served as test pilots for SpaceX’s launch last weekend say the experience was an enjoyable one, even better than the space shuttle they flew on before.

“The ride I’ll say was a little bit smoother than our shuttle experience. The shuttle was a little bit rougher, at least at the beginning,” NASA astronaut Bob Behnken told CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street” on Tuesday, speaking from the International Space Station.

When Behnken and Doug Hurley launched on Saturday, they became the first people SpaceX has sent into orbit. SpaceX launched the two astronauts in the company’s Crew Dragon capsule, using its Falcon 9 rocket to lift off the Earth. The spacecraft, which the astronauts named “Dragon Endeavour,” then docked with the space station on Sunday

“Our experience on board Dragon was really exciting for us,” Behnken said of the SpaceX launch. “I know we were smiling and talking through the entire way uphill, so it was just a lot of fun for us.”

Behnken and Hurley joined fellow NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy on the space station. Cassidy rang the Nasdaq stock market opening bell Tuesday to celebrate the launch’s success.

Both Behnken and Hurley have spent much of the past several years training with SpaceX in preparation for the launch. They each had been to space before this, launching twice on shuttle missions before the program ended in 2011.

“For me personally, it’s a great way to fly your third time in space after a nine-ear wait to fly previously,” Hurley told CNBC.

Behnken said that their experience working with SpaceX “was pretty extensive,” as they helped the company finish developing and testing the spacecraft for flight. He added that SpaceX CEO Elon Musk was “involved in quite a bit of the development process,” giving credit to the company’s founder for helping build the Crew Dragon spacecraft.

“Many of the topics we would discuss would then be percolated up through the organization and he would give the final approval on many of the aspects of things that we were trying to get developed,” Behnken said.

NASA astronauts Douglas Hurley and Robert Behnken gesture as they head to Pad39A before the launch of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon spacecraft at the Kennedy Space Center, in Cape Canaveral, Florida, U.S., May 27, 2020.

Joe Skipper | Reuters

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