NASA has given SpaceX the official green light to launch its next crew mission to the International Space Station (ISS). Due to the weather, takeoff initially scheduled for Thursday has just been postponed to Friday. For the first time, astronauts will fly aboard a reused SpaceX rocket and capsule.
Last week, NASA and SpaceX got together to certify, or not, the Crew Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 launcher before the Crew-2 mission takes off to the ISS. The teams went through their checklists and detected only one minor issue to be resolved before takeoff.
According to Bill Gerstenmaier of SpaceX (former head of human spaceflight at NASA), the teams had detected a slight difference in the amount of liquid oxygen loaded into the launcher compared to the amount SpaceX expected. As a reminder, the Falcon 9 relies on two components to fuel its travels in space: liquid RP-1 kerosene and liquid oxygen.
On Tuesday, April 20, Benji Reed, senior director of human spaceflight at SpaceX, said the liquid oxygen issue had been resolved. Since then, the Falcon 9 and its Crew Dragon capsule have passed two big tests over the weekend: a static firing test and a dress rehearsal with the crew. Both exercises were performed without problem. NASA has therefore given the green light.
The Crew-2 mission, of which Thomas Pesquet will be the Commander, will take off this Friday, April 23 at 11:49 a.m. from the historic Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Note that take-off was initially scheduled to take place this Thursday. The weather forecast finally led the NASA and SpaceX teams to postpone the start to the next day. A launch window had been left open just in case.
Reused capsule and booster
For this mission, NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur, European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Thomas Pesquet and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Akihiko Hoshide will fly on board. of the Endeavor capsule. As a reminder, it was this same capsule that had transported astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley to and from the ISS for the Demo-2 test flight.
Small funny point: Astronaut Megan McArthur should normally sit in the same seat as her husband, who is none other than Bob Behnken.
Note that the booster for this mission had also previously transported the mission’s astronauts Crew-1 to the space station on November 18, 2020.
During their six-month stay, the crew will conduct several hundred experiments, in particular for the benefit of medical research. This work will help space agencies gain a better understanding of how space affects the human body in order to better prepare astronauts for future, longer space trips to the moon.