The Resilience spacecraft has barely returned to Earth, carrying four astronauts from the ISS with it, when another flight is looming: SpaceX’s first fully civilian mission.
A great first
After hanging on for 167 days at the International Space Station (ISS), a record, the Resilience capsule landed successfully in the Gulf of Mexico on the night of May 2 to 3. It was the first night water landing of an American manned spacecraft since the arrival ofApollo 8, before dawn, in the Pacific on December 27, 1968.
On board Resilience were the four astronauts of the Crew-1 mission: Mike Hopkins, Victor Glover and Shannon Walker for NASA. They were accompanied by Soichi Noguchi for the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).
SpaceX recovery teams lifted the spacecraft from the water shortly after landing in a way that minimize seawater damage to the structure, before reaching Cape Canaveral. In a few days, the team will begin the process of preparing the Dragon for their next mission named Inspiration4.
Around the Earth with a glass dome
This mission will be a bit special since it will be entirely civilian. This will be a big first for SpaceX.
The crew members will be Jared Isaacman, founder and CEO of Shift4 Payments, Hayley Arceneaux, one of the employees at St Jude Children’s Hospital in Memphis, Sian Proctor, professor at the Community University of Tempe (Arizona) and finally Christopher Sembroski, engineer for the company Lockheed Martin. Together, they will therefore be the first people to fly to space without being accompanied by a professional astronaut.
For this mission, however, there will be no question of joining the station in orbit. The capsule and its occupants will indeed circle the Earth. at about 570 km altitude, about 130 km higher than the ISS.
Originally scheduled for next October, the launch date has been brought forward to September 15, 2021. On D-Day, Resilience will be capped atop the same Falcon 9 booster that launched Thomas Pesquet’s Crew-2 mission on April 23.
Finally, the capsule is also expected to be upgraded. A glass dome will indeed be installed at its top to offer occupants a 360-degree view of space and the Earth.
Once in orbit, the protective aerodynamic nose of the capsule should then be able to open, exposing the observation dome which, based on the illustration tweeted by SpaceX, can only accommodate one crew member at a time.