Just a couple days after the first all-private Axiom AX-1 crew returned from the International Space Station (ISS) aboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon Endeavour spacecraft, SpaceX launched Crew-4 astronauts to the ISS on April 27th. It marks SpaceX’s seventh crewed flight and the fourth operational mission under NASA’s Commercial Crew program. Crew-4 NASA astronauts Kjell Lindgren, Robert Hines, and Jessica Watkins, shared a ride with European Space Agency (ESA) Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti.
Crew-4 is go for launch pic.twitter.com/5ZY2K5VFEo— SpaceX (@SpaceX) April 27, 2022
The previously-flown Falcon 9 rocket, identified as first-stage booster B1067-4, launched Crew-4 aboard Crew Dragon Freedom at 3:52 a.m. EDT from Launch Complex 39A at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. It is the first time the company launched a crewed NASA mission with a rocket on its fourth flight. The first-stage booster previously launched the company’s 22nd cargo Commercial Resupply Services mission to the orbiting laboratory (CRS-22) in June 2021, then it launched Crew-3 astronauts to the ISS in November 2021, and it deployed Turkey’s Turksat-5B satellite in December 2021.
"Liftoff! The past few days at Kennedy Space Center have been inspiring and busy with the return of the Axiom crew and now the successful launch of Crew-4 astronauts to the International Space Station," NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said in a statement. "Aboard station, Kjell, Bob, Jessica and Samantha will carry out research investigations that will help NASA prepare for longer duration stays on the Moon – and eventually Mars. These missions wouldn’t be possible without the dedicated NASA and SpaceX teams here on Earth. Godspeed, Crew-4!"
Liftoff of Falcon 9 and Dragon! pic.twitter.com/sfKAOpBtU6— SpaceX (@SpaceX) April 27, 2022
Crew-4 arrived at the orbiting laboratory approximately 16-hours later. Freedom docked autonomously to the ISS Harmony module at 7:37 p.m. EDT while the spacecraft orbited 261-miles above the beautiful Pacific Ocean. It was the shortest Dragon flight to date. They said that the arrival time varies on a day-by-day basis depending on Earth’s orbit in relation to the ISS. “It’s just the orbital mechanics of where the ISS is and where it’s coming over Florida” for the launch, explained Jessica Jensen, vice president of customer operations and integration at SpaceX. “We’re not changing anything in the way we do our operations with NASA.”
Watch live as @NASA’s @SpaceX #Crew4 Dragon Freedom makes it’s final approach to the Space Station. https://t.co/cBNqC5JGaz pic.twitter.com/oa1XlICa8m— International Space Station (@Space_Station) April 27, 2022
Dragon Freedom’s hatch was opened about 9:15 p.m. EDT on Wednesday. Crew-4 was welcomed at the Space Station by the Expedition 67 crew of seven members, including: SpaceX Crew-3 NASA astronauts Raja Chari, Thomas Marshburn, and Kayla Barron, and ESA astronaut Matthias Maurer, who are sharing the ISS Lab with Russian cosmonauts Oleg Artemyev, Sergey Korsakov, and Denis Matveev of Roscosmos Space Agency. With Crew-4’s arrival, there are 11 people at the orbiting outpost.
Wilkommen, bienvenue, welcome... The population on the International @Space_Station just grew by four! Watch live as the team on orbit welcomes the newly arrived @SpaceX #Crew4 astronauts, bringing the number of humans now orbiting Earth to 11. https://t.co/V9tEkwjiWw— NASA (@NASA) April 28, 2022
SpaceX Crew-4 astronauts will work at the Station for six months, conducting over 200 science experiments in microgravity. Crew-3 astronauts are scheduled to undock from the ISS on May 4th, with a Dragon splashdown on May 5th [date is subject to change]. SpaceX Crew-4 Mission Specialist NASA Astronaut Jessica Watkins is making history as the first woman of color to be launched to space on a long-duration mission on the Space Station. "I think it really is just a tribute to the legacy of the Black women astronauts that have come before me, as well as to the exciting future ahead," Watkins said during a press conference. Out of the 248 astronauts who have visited the space station, only 7 have been a person of color. “It is an honor to be part of that legacy moving forward,” she said. "For me, growing up, it was important to me to have role models in roles that I aspire to be in, contributing in ways I aspired to contribute," said Watkins. "So to the extent that I'm able to do that, I'm honored and grateful for the opportunity to return the favor."
Featured Image Source: NASA & SpaceX
About the Author
Evelyn Janeidy Arevalo
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.