Today, December 16, NASA announced it assigned a pair of astronauts to SpaceX’s Crew-6 mission to the International Space Station (ISS), it will be the sixth operational spaceflight under the Commercial Crew Program contract. The agency partnered with two U.S. companies to launch astronauts from American soil, it purchased six crewed flights from SpaceX and six from Boeing to perform alternate crewed missions every 6-months. However, Boeing’s Starliner development is falling behind; The company has not completed the necessary testing to certify its spacecraft is safe to carry humans. SpaceX has performed all the planned crewed spaceflights since the program initiated in 2020. To date, SpaceX has performed three operational crewed flights to ISS, Crew-1, Crew-2, and the ongoing Crew-3 mission. Crew-3 will return from the Space Station sometime in April next year. SpaceX will launch Crew-4 in 2022 and Crew-5 after their return. The Crew-6 mission will take place in 2023.
The two astronauts assigned to the Crew-6 mission are NASA astronauts Stephen Bowen and Woody Hoburg. They will be part of a four member crew, the other crewmembers will be international partners from either the European Space Agency (ESA), Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), or cosmonauts from the Russian Roscosmos agency. They will liftoff atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket to the Space Station aboard a Crew Dragon spacecraft. NASA Astronaut Stephen Bowen will serve as Crew-6 spacecraft commander. He is a veteran astronaut who has worked at the ISS three times before, during the Space Shuttle's STS-126, STS-132 and STS-133 flights. He even worked on the expansion of ISS, the STS-126 flight was the Station’s 27th assembly mission back in 2008 which helped expand the orbiting outpost’s living headquarters to house six crewmembers.
NASA Astronaut Woody Hoburg will serve as SpaceX Dragon Crew-6 Pilot. It will be his first trip to outer space. He was selected as a NASA astronaut in 2017. The Pittsburgh native has a bachelor’s degree in aeronautics and astronautics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and a doctorate in electrical engineering and computer science from the University of California, Berkeley. He has worked as a university professor and commercial pilot.
After Crew-6 completes their 6-month-long mission at the Space Station, NASA plans to purchase additional SpaceX Crew Dragon rides while Boeing continues to fix the issues with the Starliner spacecraft. The agency said it will extend SpaceX’s Commercial Crew Program contract to conduct three additional spaceflights – Crew-7, Crew-8, and Crew-9. Boeing will prepare Starliner for its next uncrewed demonstration mission to the ISS in 2022, known as Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2), that will determine if Starliner obtains a human spaceflight certification to begin launching astronauts.
Featured Image Source: SpaceX