Media accreditation now is open for the launch of the fifth SpaceX Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket that will carry astronauts to the International Space Station for a science expedition mission as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.
The earliest targeted launch date for the mission is Friday, Sept. 29, from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
The Crew-5 launch will carry two NASA astronauts Mission Commander Nicole Mann and Pilot Josh Cassada, along with JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) astronaut Koichi Wakata and Roscosmos cosmonaut Anna Kikina, who will serve as mission specialists. This is the first spaceflight for Mann, Cassada and Kikina. It is the fifth trip for Wakata.
Following a crew handover period, astronauts from NASA’s SpaceX Crew-4 mission are scheduled for return to Earth in October aboard their SpaceX Dragon Freedom.
NASA and SpaceX are preparing for the fifth crew rotation mission of the company’s human space transportation system to the International Space Station as part of the agency’s Commercial Crew Program (CCP).
NASA’s SpaceX Crew-5 mission is targeted to launch no earlier than Sept. 29, 2022, to the microgravity laboratory for a science expedition mission with NASA astronauts Nicole Mann and Josh Cassada, JAXA’s (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) Koichi Wakata, and Roscosmos cosmonaut Anna Kikina.
A launch at the end of September will allow SpaceX to complete hardware processing and mission teams will continue to review the launch date based on the space station’s visiting spacecraft schedule. Launch of Crew-5 now will take place after a scheduled Soyuz undocking and launch period from Sept. 16-30.
Crew-5 astronauts will fly to the space station in Dragon Endurance, currently undergoing refurbishment for its second human spaceflight at SpaceX’s processing facility in Cape Canaveral, Florida. The spacecraft previously flew the agency’s Crew-3 mission to and from the space station. As part of the refurbishment process, teams will install new components such as the heat shield, parachutes, and pod panels.
This also will be the first time all four forward bulkhead Draco engines, which orient and provide altitude adjustment for the spacecraft during flight, are reused on a NASA commercial crew mission. SpaceX recently completed Dragon’s propulsion system checkouts and will soon mate the heat shield to the spacecraft. Once refurbishment is complete, Dragon will be stacked to its trunk ahead of transporting the vehicle to SpaceX’s hangar at Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
As teams progress through Dragon milestones, they also are preparing a first-flight Falcon 9 booster for this mission. SpaceX is removing and replacing the rocket’s interstage and some onboard instrumentation after the hardware was damaged during transport from SpaceX’s production factory in Hawthorne, California, to the company’s McGregor test facility in Texas for stage testing. SpaceX teams completed – and NASA teams reviewed – load, shock, and structural analyses, coupled with detailed and X-ray inspections, to verify the damage was isolated to the interstage and ensure the integrity of the rest of the booster.
After all replacement hardware is installed, the booster will undergo stage testing and be further assessed prior to acceptance and certification for flight.
Once all rocket and spacecraft system checkouts are complete and all components are certified for flight, teams will mate Dragon to the Falcon 9 rocket in SpaceX’s hangar at LC-39A. The integrated spacecraft and rocket will then be rolled to the pad and raised to vertical for an integrated static fire test prior to launch.
Follow the commercial crew blog for the latest information on Crew-5 progress and flight readiness as reviews and milestones continue. NASA and its partners will host a media event in the coming weeks to discuss more about Crew-5 progress.
NASA will fly two astronaut test pilots aboard the agency’s Boeing Crew Flight Test (CFT) mission to the International Space Station, where they will live and work off the Earth for about two weeks.
CFT commander Barry “Butch” Wilmore, whom NASA assigned to the prime crew in October 2020, will join NASA astronaut Suni Williams, who will serve as pilot. Williams previously served as the backup test pilot for CFT while assigned as commander of NASA’s Boeing Starliner-1 mission, Starliner’s first post-certification mission. As CFT pilot, Williams takes the place of NASA astronaut Nicole Mann, originally assigned to the mission in 2018. NASA reassigned Mann to the agency’s SpaceX Crew-5 mission in 2021.
NASA astronaut Mike Fincke, whom the agency previously assigned as the Joint Operations Commander for CFT, will now train as the backup spacecraft test pilot and remains eligible for assignment to a future mission. Fincke’s unique expertise will continue to benefit the team as he retains his position as flight test lead, filling a vital role in Starliner certification.
Meteorologists with the U.S. Space Force 45th Weather Squadron now predict an 80% chance of favorable weather for today’s uncrewed launch of NASA’s Boeing Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2) to the International Space Station. Liftoff is scheduled for 6:54 p.m. EDT from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida.
The primary weather concerns for launch day are the cumulus and anvil cloud rules violations during the instantaneous launch window.
Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft, atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket, will lift off from Space Launch Complex-41. Live launch coverage begins at 6 p.m. EDT on NASA TV, the NASA app, and the agency’s website.
“This is our fourth crew rotation flight – it’s kind of hard to believe,” said Steve Stich, manager, Commercial Crew Program, NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. “It seems like Demo-2 was just yesterday, and it’s exciting to be here. We had a really clean countdown today – the Falcon 9 rocket did great; the Dragon vehicle did great. It was great to see the crew get in. You could tell they were excited to start their flight off.”
Upon their arrival at the space station, the Crew-4 astronauts will be greeted by NASA astronauts of the Expedition 67 crew already on board. During their six-month stay aboard the microgravity laboratory, Lindgren, Hines, Watkins, and Cristoforetti will join the Expedition 67 crew in conducting a number of science and research investigations.
The Crew-4 astronauts will conduct new and exciting scientific research in areas such as materials science, health technologies, and plant science to prepare for human exploration beyond low-Earth orbit and benefit life on Earth. Experiments will include studies on the aging of immune systems, organic material concrete alternatives, and cardiorespiratory effects during and after long-duration exposure to microgravity. These are just some of the more than 200 science experiments and technology demonstrations that will take place during their mission.
Launching alongside the crew in the Dragon capsule is an investigation that seeks to restore meaningful vision to people suffering from retinal degenerative diseases like retinitis pigmentosa and macular degeneration. The Protein-Based Artificial Retina Manufacturing experiment tests the manufacturing of artificial retinas or retinal implants in microgravity, where it is expected their production could be optimized.
Also traveling to space aboard the Crew Dragon are Smart-Tex shirts as part of the German Space Agency (DLR) investigation called Wireless Compose-2. The shirts are fitted with sensors, wiring, and a communications module to wirelessly transmit data to a base station. The shirt is designed to monitor cardiovascular activity like relative blood pressure and can provide details about heart contraction rate and valve opening and closing times – something normally accessible only through sonography or CT scans. These kinds of wearable technologies could be used to monitor health throughout a long-duration space exploration mission and could lead to a more flexible implementation of this technology in health monitoring equipment on Earth.
Crew-4 is NASA’s fourth crew rotation mission with SpaceX for the agency’s Commercial Crew Program. Lindgren and Cristoforetti have previously traveled to the International Space Station, while it will be the first trip for Hines and Watkins. Crew-4 astronauts are slated to arrive at the space station today, April 27, with docking targeted for 8:15 p.m. EDT. Following docking and hatch opening, a welcoming ceremony is planned for 2:40 a.m. EDT.
Coverage of Crew-4’s arrival to the station will air live on NASA Television and the agency’s website, beginning with docking at 8:15 p.m. EDT.
The first stage of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket has successfully landed on the company’s droneship, “A Shortfall of Gravitas,” stationed in the Atlantic Ocean. The rocket used for today’s mission previously flew on SpaceX’s 22nd commercial resupply mission in June 2021 and the Crew-3 launch to the International Space Station in November.
Shutdown of the Falcon 9 rocket’s second stage engines occurs right on time, and Crew Dragon is now in orbit. In just a moment, the rocket’s first stage will attempt to land on the droneship “A Shortfall of Gravitas” in the Atlantic Ocean.
The call came in from Crew-4 Commander Kjell Lindgren that trajectory is nominal, and the first stage has started its descent. The Falcon 9 rocket’s second stage will continue to burn for the next few minutes before intentionally shutting down.