The United States had not launched astronauts from American soil in nearly a decade, SpaceX officially returned human spaceflight capabilities to the U.S. in 2020. The aerospace company is ready to launch its third crewed mission to the International Space Station (ISS) under NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. The mission, known as Crew-2, will be the second operational mission that will launch an international crew: NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur, Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Akihiko Hoshide, and European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Thomas Pesquet. They will launch aboard a previously-flown Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon spacecraft on April 22.
The spacecraft is the same one that launched NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley to and from ISS during SpaceX’s Demo-2 mission in 2020, which was the company’s first crewed spaceflight. The Falcon 9 that will launch Crew-2 next week previously launched Crew-1 to orbit in November last year, the first-stage booster is identified as B1061-2. “This is the first human spaceflight mission to fly astronauts on a flight-proven Falcon 9 and Dragon,” SpaceX stated. The booster will now liftoff at 6:11 a.m. EDT on Thursday from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. If for any reason the flight is delayed, a backup launch opportunity is reserved for Friday, April 23 at 5:49 a.m. EDT. Once Falcon 9 propels Crew Dragon Endeavour to orbit, it will return to land on the ‘Of Course I Still Love You’ autonomous droneship, which will be stationed approximately 633-kilometers downrange in the Atlantic Ocean.
The Falcon 9 first stage previously launched the Crew-1 mission, and the Dragon spacecraft previously flew @AstroBehnken and @Astro_Doug to and from the @space_station during the Demo-2 mission pic.twitter.com/OFTAh5cJUS— SpaceX (@SpaceX) April 17, 2021
Engineers completed the final preparation to liftoff Crew-2 this morning, “Static fire test of Falcon 9 complete – targeting Thursday, April 22 at 6:11 a.m. EDT for launch of Dragon’s second operational mission to the Space Station,” SpaceX announced. During the static-fire test, Falcon 9’s nine Merlin 1D engines were briefly ignited as the vehicle remained grounded to the launchpad. It is a routine pre-flight test done ahead of every rocket flight to ensure all systems are working optimally. If all goes as planned next week, the astronauts are expected to arrive to the Space Station by Friday, April 23. Dragon will autonomously dock with the station’s Harmony module at approximately 5:30 a.m. EDT. “This will be the first time Dragon will fly two international partners and it will also be the first time two Crew Dragons are attached simultaneously to the orbiting laboratory,” the company said. Crew-2 will join Crew-1 astronauts who are currently working at the orbiting laboratory, they are scheduled to depart on April 28. “After an approximate six-month stay, Dragon and the Crew-2 astronauts will depart from the space station no earlier than October 31 for return to Earth and splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Florida,” SpaceX stated. You can watch the upcoming mission around 4-hours before liftoff on Thursday in the video below, courtesy of NASA. Stay tuned for more updates on Tesmanian.com. [Dates and Time are subject to change.]
WATCH IT LIVE!
All Images Source: SpaceX/NASA
About the Author
Evelyn J. Arevalo joined Tesmanian in 2019 to cover news as a Space Journalist and SpaceX Starbase Texas Correspondent. Evelyn is specialized in rocketry and space exploration. The main topics she covers are SpaceX and NASA.