Today marks the (hopeful) historic launch of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the Crew Dragon capsule on top. Inside the craft, astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley will lift off en route to the International Space Station.
This is the first time ever that NASA astronauts will utilize a commercially built spacecraft to reach the ISS. The craft was built under NASA’s Commercial Crew Program and was developed entirely by SpaceX. Historically, NASA subcontracted numerous aerospace companies to build spacecraft, but SpaceX exists in the private sector.
But this is not the first time NASA astronauts will wear an Omega X-33 on a mission. Look carefully, and you’ll see one on the wrist of Behnken during the pre-launch checks with the signature velcro strap.
This is also the first time since the 2011 Space Shuttle program cancellation that an X-33 will be worn by NASA astronauts launching from U.S. soil – specifically from Launch Pad 39-A at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, FL., under the supervision of the Air Force’s 45th Space Wing. The X-33 watch is currently issued to astronauts, and in the Talking Watches episode with Dr. David Williams, he recounts some of the design decisions that were made during prototype testing. He also confirms that the watch must be returned to NASA when the mission is over, but Omega does offer astronauts a personally engraved X-33. He was part of the crew that first took the X-33 into space. Prior to the X-33, astronauts wore Speedmaster Professionals (some still do). The Crew Dragon capsule is festooned with touchscreens, so the digital X-33 is a perfect match for the occasion.
The watch is strapped to the outside of the astronaut’s spacesuit and will most likely remain there for the 19-hour journey to the ISS. The astronauts will then board the ISS. When they return, the watch will likely be returned to NASA.
Watch the livestream of the historic launch here, and keep an eye out for the X-33!