NASA has confirmed the SpaceX mission to send astronauts to the International Space Station is ‘go’.
The Crew-2 mission, which will see four astronauts launch to the ISS on a Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon capsule, has been given the official go-ahead from Elon Musk’s space firm and NASA. It’s set for April 22, which is also Earth Day, taking off from Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
It marks the second crew rotation flight of the SpaceX Crew Dragon, coming after certification by NASA for regular flights to the space station as part of the agency’s Commercial Crew Program.
The six-month mission will carry NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur, who’ll serve as spacecraft commander and pilot respectively, alongside JAXA astronaut Akihiko Hoshide and ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet, on-board as mission specialists.
For the first time, both the capsule – named Endeavour – and rocket have been recycled from a previous trip; more specifically, the Demo-2 flight with NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley.
With the exception of some valves, thermal protection covers and parachutes, the capsule is ‘flight proven’ and both components have been refurbished, The Independent reports.
In a news conference yesterday, April 15, NASA’s head of human spaceflight Kathy Lueders said, as per Space.com: ‘The flight readiness review was very successful; we only had one exception. It needs to be cleared up in the next few days because it’s got to get resolved before the static fire [test].’
She also said it was ‘moving’ to be making so much progress and conducting such frequent spaceflights, adding: ‘Looking back, it’s really, really amazing what both the SpaceX and NASA teams have accomplished.’
With regards to the safety of the Crew-2 mission, Bill Gerstenmaier, vice president of build and flight reliability at SpaceX and former NASA human spaceflight chief, also said the teams ‘discovered there was a potential loading error, where we may actually be loading a little extra oxygen in our [Falcon 9] tanks’.
SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rockets are known for using liquid oxygen and rocket-grade kerosene for lift-off. However, while other Falcon 9 missions have had success, this issue was only recently discovered. It’s unclear how this could affect any flights, but teams are going to review the issue.
Gerstenmaier added: ‘We reviewed that with the NASA team today, but we didn’t have enough time to really go over all the data and look at all the consequences of what that could mean.’
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Topics: News, Crew Dragon, Elon Musk, NASA, Now, Space, SpaceX, US