NASA, SpaceX Update Upcoming Commercial Crew Flights

With a view of the iconic Vehicle Assembly Building at left, a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket soars upward from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on April 23, 2021, for NASA's SpaceX Crew-2 mission.
With a view of the iconic Vehicle Assembly Building at left, a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket soars upward from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on April 23, 2021, carrying the company’s Crew Dragon Endeavour capsule on NASA’s SpaceX Crew-2 mission. Launch time was at 5:49 a.m. EDT. Photo credit: NASA/Ben Smegelsky

NASA and SpaceX leadership provided an update Oct. 6 as part of the agency’s Crew-3 mission to the International Space Station – the third crew rotation flight that will carry an international crew of four astronauts on a science expedition to the microgravity laboratory as part of the Commercial Crew Program.

NASA astronauts Raja Chari, Tom Marshburn, and Kayla Barron as well as ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Matthias Maurer will launch aboard a Crew Dragon spacecraft launching on a Falcon 9 rocket on its way to the space station. The mission is scheduled to lift off Saturday, Oct. 30, from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The Crew-3 mission will fly a new Crew Dragon spacecraft, and will be the first mission to fly a previously used nosecone.

Crew-3 astronauts also will provide an update on their upcoming mission at 2 p.m. EDT Thursday, Oct. 7, on NASA Television, the NASA app, and the agency’s website, from NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Texas prior to going into standard preflight quarantine ahead final launch preparations.

Launch on Oct. 30 would have Crew-3 arriving at the space station early the next day after an approximate 22-hour journey for a short overlap with the astronauts who flew to the station as part of the agency’s SpaceX Crew-2 mission.

Prior to launch, NASA and SpaceX will complete a final dress rehearsal for the mission, and continue reviewing data as a part of the standard mission reviews. In support of Crew-3, SpaceX implemented several improvements to the Crew Dragon system based on knowledge gained from previous flights, including making a software change to build in more communications robustness against radiation effects while docked, adding more cleaning techniques to cut down on foreign object debris, improving computer performance during re-entry, and enhancing the spacecraft’s docking procedures and mechanisms to mitigate hardware interference on the International Space Station side of the interface.

NASA and SpaceX also have been working to conduct joint inspections of the waste management system on the Crew-2 spacecraft at the space station following an observation during a non-NASA mission. Based on the inspections, teams will limit the use of the waste system during the return flight of Crew-2. Earlier this year, the Dragon spacecraft supporting the Crew-2 mission completed a short port relocation flight around the International Space Station, and all systems on the spacecraft performed normally during its undocking and re-docking maneuver. SpaceX will implement a small design improvement on the new Dragon spacecraft supporting the Crew-3 mission and all future spacecraft to make the system even more robust.

Through data sharing with SpaceX, NASA also has gained additional insight into higher-altitude flights of Crew Dragon, the performance of the thermal protection system, and more data on micrometeoroid environment of space helping to improve modeling. In addition, NASA learned more about the environmental control and life support system on an extended in-orbit mission with crew continuously on board, including the system’s carbon dioxide scrubber. On all missions, including cargo flights, SpaceX continues to recover and examine parachutes for continued analysis by NASA, ultimately driving up the safety of all missions.

After Crew-3 arrival to the space station, return of the Crew-2 mission with NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Akihiko Hoshide, and ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet, is planned for early November. This Friday, the Crew-2 spacecraft is targeted to break the record set by Crew Dragon Resilience as it passes 168 days in orbit.

Missions teams continue to target April 15, 2022, for the launch of NASA’s SpaceX Crew-4 mission to the space station for a six-month science mission aboard the microgravity laboratory.

Crew-4 will be commanded by Kjell Lindgren with Bob Hines as pilot, both NASA astronauts. ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti will be a mission specialist and command the station’s Expedition 68 crew, while the remaining crew member has yet to be named. Crew-3 astronauts are set to return to Earth in late April 2022 following a similar handover with Crew-4.

NASA also announced it has reassigned astronauts Nicole Mann and Josh Cassada to the agency’s SpaceX Crew-5 mission to the International Space Station. NASA decided it was important to make these reassignments to allow Boeing time to complete the development of Starliner while continuing plans for astronauts to gain spaceflight experience for the future needs of the agency’s missions.

NASA astronaut Jeanette Epps remains assigned to NASA’s Boeing Starliner-1 for a long-duration science mission aboard the International Space Station. It is important for Nicole Mann, Josh Cassada and Jeanette Epps to gain their first spaceflight experience, and Epps currently is cross training with the team on the Crew Dragon system. There are many factors in play before any crew assignment is ready, including discussions with our international partners and Multilateral Crew Operations Panel approval. All three crew members have ample time to train on commercial crew systems and become fully prepared for their missions to the International Space Station.

NASA astronauts Butch Wilmore, Mike Fincke, and Suni Williams will continue to provide experience for Boeing as the agency prepares for NASA’s Boeing Crew Flight Test and Starliner-1 missions. Additional Boeing flight assignments will be made in the future.

Crew Dragon Endeavour Has Re-Docked to Station

The SpaceX Crew-2 Dragon is pictured after maneuvering to the Harmony module's space-facing international docking adapter.
The SpaceX Crew-2 Dragon is pictured after maneuvering to the Harmony module’s space-facing international docking adapter. Credit: NASA TV

Crew Dragon Endeavour with NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and  Megan McArthur, JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) astronaut Akihiko Hoshide, and ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Thomas Pesquet, have re-docked to the International Space Station.

Crew Dragon autonomously undocked from the forward port of the station’s Harmony module at 6:45 a.m. and relocated to the space-facing port at 7:35 a.m. completing the second space station port change for the crewed spacecraft.

Next up for commercial crew, Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner is scheduled to arrive at the International Space Station about one day following its launch at 2:53 p.m. Friday, July 30, on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex-41 on Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. The uncrewed flight test, NASA’s Boeing Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2), will test the end-to-end capabilities of Starliner from launch to docking, atmospheric re-entry, and a desert landing in the western United States. The uncrewed mission will provide valuable data about Boeing’s crew transportation system, and help NASA certify Starliner and the Atlas V rocket for regular flights with astronauts to and from the space station.

Crew-2 astronauts are targeted to return to Earth in early-to-mid November following a short handover with NASA’s SpaceX Crew-3 astronauts targeted to launch on Sunday, Oct. 31.

Coverage Underway for Crew-2 Port Relocation

The SpaceX Crew Dragon Endeavour approaches the International Space Station
The SpaceX Crew Dragon Endeavour approaches the International Space Station on April 24, 2021

NASA Television, the NASA app, and the agency’s website are providing live coverage as four residents of the International Space Station prepare to take a spin around their orbital neighborhood in the Crew Dragon Endeavour spacecraft, relocating it to prepare for the arrival of the agency’s Boeing Orbital Flight Test-2.

NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and  Megan McArthur, JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) astronaut Akihiko Hoshide, and ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Thomas Pesquet boarded the Crew Dragon spacecraft about 4:30 a.m. and are scheduled to undock from the forward port of the station’s Harmony module at 6:45 a.m. The spacecraft will dock again at the station’s space-facing port at 7:32 a.m.

This will be the second port relocation of a Crew Dragon spacecraft. NASA’s SpaceX Crew-2 mission lifted off April 23 from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida and docked to the space station April 24. Crew-2, targeted to return in early-to-mid November, is the second of six certified crew missions NASA and SpaceX have planned as a part of the agency’s Commercial Crew Program.

Crew-1 Splashdown Waved Off as Station Teems With Science

The 11-member crew aboard the station is actually a combination of three different crews. The four Space Crew-2 astronauts are in the back row. The three-person crew of the Soyuz MS-18 crew ship are in the middle row. In the front row is the SpaceX Crew-1 foursome.
The 11-member crew aboard the station is actually a combination of three different crews. The four Space Crew-2 astronauts are in the back row. The three-person crew of the Soyuz MS-18 crew ship is in the middle row. In the front row, is the SpaceX Crew-1 foursome.

NASA and SpaceX have decided to move Crew-1’s undocking and splashdown from Friday, April 30, and Saturday, May 1, respectively, following a review of the forecast weather conditions in the splashdown zones off the coast of Florida, which continue to predict wind speeds above the return criteria. Mission teams from NASA and SpaceX will meet again on Friday to further review opportunities for the safe return of Crew-1. Crew Dragon is in great health on the space station, and teams will continue to look for the optimal conditions for both splashdown and recovery.

Commander Akihiko Hoshide is leading the Expedition 65 crew and will stay in space until October with his Crew-2 crewmates Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur and Thomas Pesquet. Also staying behind on the orbital lab are Soyuz MS-18 crewmates Mark Vande Hei of NASA and Roscosmos cosmonauts Oleg Novitskiy and Pyotr Dubrov.

All 11 of the orbital residents stayed busy today with human research studies, lab maintenance, and emergency gear training as the Crew Dragon departure activities were under way.

The station was teeming with science on Thursday with the crew collecting and stowing urine samples, conducting behavioral research, and exploring how affects grip and movement. Fuel bottles supporting combustion experiments were swapped out while new hardware was installed to activate a high-performance space computer study.

Astronauts Swap Station Command Before Cargo and Crew Ships Depart

The SpaceX Crew-1 astronauts (from left) Shannon Walker, Victor Glover, Michael Hopkins and Soichi Noguchi are pictured shortly after commenting on their mission before returning to Earth this weekend. Credit: NASA TV
The SpaceX Crew-1 astronauts (from left) Shannon Walker, Victor Glover, Michael Hopkins and Soichi Noguchi are pictured shortly after commenting on their mission before returning to Earth this weekend. Credit: NASA TV

The International Space Station has a new commander today as four astronauts prepare for their return to Earth this Saturday. The orbital residents will also send off a Russian cargo craft on Tuesday evening, completing its year-long stay at the orbital lab.

The four SpaceX Crew-1 astronauts have a new splashdown date after mission managers waved off Wednesday’s planned departure due to weather conditions at the landing site. The quartet of Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover, Shannon Walker and Soichi Noguchi, is now targeting a splashdown off the coast of Florida for Saturday at 11:36 a.m. EDT.

NASA TV will begin its continuous live coverage at 3:30 p.m. Friday starting with hatch closure of the Crew Dragon Resilience set for 3:50 p.m. Resilience with its four-person crew will then autonomously undock from the Harmony module’s space-facing international docking adapter at 5:55 p.m. completing a 164-day station research mission.

Walker handed over station command to today Akihiko Hoshide from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) during the traditional change of command ceremony. Hoshide, Japan’s second station commander, will now lead Expedition 65 until October of this year.

Hoshide arrived at the orbital lab on April 24 aboard the Crew Dragon Endeavour with SpaceX Crew-2. NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough commanded Endeavour riding alongside Pilot Megan McArthur and Mission Specialists Hoshide and Thomas Pesquet during the near 24-hour trip that began with a launch from Kennedy Space Center.

Staying on the orbiting lab with the four Crew-2 astronauts are NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei and Roscosmos cosmonauts Oleg Novitskiy and Pyotr Dubrov. The trio docked to the station’s Rassvet module inside the Soyuz MS-18 crew ship on April 9 and will stay on orbit until October.

Russia’s ISS Progress 75 cargo craft has been packed with trash and discarded gear and its hatch closed for an undocking today at 7:11 p.m. It will leave the Zvezda service module’s aft port and spend another day orbiting Earth on its own before reentering Earth’s atmosphere above the Pacific Ocean for a fiery, but safe destruction.

SpaceX Crew-2 Astronauts Join Station Crew

The four new SpaceX Crew-2 astronauts joined the Expedition 65 crew today bringing the station population to 11. Credit: NASA TV
The four new SpaceX Crew-2 astronauts joined the Expedition 65 crew today bringing the station population to 11. Credit: NASA TV

NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur, along with JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) astronaut Akihiko Hoshide, and ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Thomas Pesquet  aboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon have arrived at the International Space Station.

Crew-2 joins Expedition 65 crew of crew of Shannon WalkerMichael Hopkins,  Victor Glover, and Mark Vande Hei of NASA, as well as Soichi Noguchi of JAXA and Roscosmos cosmonauts Oleg Novitskiy and Pyotr Dubrov.

The crew members first opened the hatch between the space station and the pressurized mating adapter at 7:05 a.m. EDT then opened the hatch to Crew Dragon.

NASA TV will continue to provide live coverage through the welcoming ceremony with leadership from NASA, ESA and JAXA to greet the crew on station. The welcome ceremony is targeted to begin about 7:45 a.m. with the following participants:

  • Steve Jurczyk, acting NASA administrator
  • Kathy Lueders, associate administrator, Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, NASA Headquarters
  • Hiroshi Yamakawa, president, JAXA
  • Josef Aschbacher, director general, ESA

Follow along and get more information about the mission at: http://www.nasa.gov/crew-2.  Learn more about station activities by following the space station blog@space_station and @ISS_Research on Twitter as well as the ISS Facebook and ISS Instagram accounts.

Crew Dragon Docks to Station Day After Launch

The SpaceX Crew Dragon approaches its space station docking port with the Kibo laboratory module in the foreground. Credit: NASA TV
The SpaceX Crew Dragon approaches its space station docking port with the Kibo laboratory module in the foreground. Credit: NASA TV

NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur, along with JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) astronaut Akihiko Hoshide, and ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Thomas Pesquet arrived at the International Space Station Saturday, as the SpaceX Crew Dragon Endeavour docked to the complex at 5:08 a.m. EDT while the spacecraft were flying 264 miles above the Indian Ocean.

Following Crew Dragon’s link up to the Harmony module, the astronauts aboard the Endeavour and the space station will begin conducting standard leak checks and pressurization between the spacecraft in preparation for hatch opening scheduled for 7:15 a.m.

Kimbrough, McArthur, Hoshide, and Pesquet will join the Expedition 65 crew of Shannon Walker, Michael HopkinsVictor Glover, and Mark Vande Hei of NASA, as well as Soichi Noguchi of JAXA and Roscosmos cosmonauts Oleg Novitskiy and Pyotr Dubrov. For a short time, the number of crew on the space station will increase to 11 people until Crew-1 astronauts Walker, Hopkins, Glover, and Noguchi return a few days later.

NASA Television and the agency’s website are continuing to provide live continuous coverage of the agency’s SpaceX Crew-2 mission.

Follow along and get more information about the mission at: http://www.nasa.gov/crew-2.  Learn more about station activities by following the space station blog@space_station and @ISS_Research on Twitter as well as the ISS Facebook and ISS Instagram accounts.

NASA, SpaceX Officials Thrilled With Crew-2 Launch Success

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifts off at 5:49 a.m. EDT from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on April 23, 2021, carrying the company’s Crew Dragon Endeavour.
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifts off at 5:49 a.m. EDT from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on April 23, 2021, carrying the company’s Crew Dragon Endeavour. Onboard the capsule are NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough, spacecraft commander; NASA astronaut Megan McArthur, pilot; ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet, mission specialist; and JAXA astronaut Akihiko Hoshide, mission specialist. NASA’s SpaceX Crew-2 mission crew will dock to the Harmony module’s forward-facing international docking adapter of the International Space Station on Saturday, April 24, at 5:10 a.m. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

Liftoff of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket, with Crew Dragon atop, lit up the early morning sky at 5:49 a.m. today, April 23, as it lifted off from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Crew-2 astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur of NASA, Akihiko Hoshide of JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency), and Thomas Pesquet of ESA (European Space Agency) are now on their way to the International Space Station aboard Crew Dragon.

The four crew members are now a few hours into their 23.5-hour trip. The Crew Dragon spacecraft, named Endeavour, will dock autonomously to the forward port of the station’s Harmony module about 5:10 a.m. Saturday, April 24.

“It has been an incredible year for NASA and our Commercial Crew Program, with three crewed launches to the space station since last May,” said NASA Acting Administrator Steve Jurczyk. “This is another important milestone for NASA, SpaceX, and our international partners at ESA and JAXA, and for the future of scientific research on board the ISS. It will be an exciting moment to see our crews greet one another on station for our first crew handover under the Commercial Crew Program.”

The Crew-2 mission is the second of six crewed missions NASA and SpaceX will fly as part of the agency’s Commercial Crew Program. This mission has several firsts, including:

  • First commercial crew mission to fly two international partners;
  • First commercial crew handover between astronauts on the space station as Crew-1 and Crew-2 astronauts will spend about five days together on station before Crew-1 returns to Earth;
  • First reuse of the Crew Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket on a crew mission –Crew Dragon Endeavour flew the historic Demo-2 mission and the Falcon 9 flew astronauts on the Crew-1 mission; and,
  • First time two commercial crew spacecraft will be docked to station at the same time.

“When I see a launch, I immediately think of what it took to reach this milestone and the dedication of all the people who made it happen,” said Steve Stich, manager of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. “There’s obviously a long way to go, but now we can celebrate the Crew-2 launch and look forward to seeing them join their other Expedition 65 colleagues as we prepare to bring Crew-1 home next week.”

Kimbrough, McArthur, Hoshide, and Pesquet will join the Expedition 65 crew of Shannon Walker, Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover, and Mark Vande Hei of NASA, as well as Soichi Noguchi of JAXA and Roscosmos cosmonauts Oleg Novitskiy and Pyotr Dubrov. For a short time, the number of crew on the space station will increase to 11 people until Crew-1 astronauts Walker, Hopkins, Glover, and Noguchi return to Earth a few days later.

The Crew-2 members will conduct science and maintenance during a six-month stay aboard the orbiting laboratory and will return no earlier than Oct. 31. Adding more crew members aboard the microgravity laboratory increases the time available for scientific activities. The November 2020 arrival of the Crew-1 astronauts more than doubled crew hours spent on scientific research and support activities, and Crew-2 will continue the important investigations and technology demonstrations that are preparing for future Artemis missions to the Moon, helping us improve our understanding of Earth’s climate, and improving life on our home planet.

Tune in to NASA Television or the agency’s website for continuous comprehensive coverage of the Crew-2 mission, including docking at the space station on Saturday, April 24, at approximately 5:10 a.m. EDT.

A welcome ceremony from the International Space Station will take place Saturday, April 24, at 7:45 a.m. EDT, with the following participants:

  • Steve Jurczyk, acting NASA administrator
  • Kathy Lueders, associate administrator, Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, NASA Headquarters
  • Hiroshi Yamakawa, president, JAXA
  • Josef Aschbacher, director general, ESA

Follow along with mission activities and get more information at: https://blogs.nasa.gov/spacestation/. Learn more about commercial crew and space station activities by following @Commercial_Crew@space_station, and @ISS_Research on Twitter as well as the Commercial Crew FacebookISS Facebook and ISS Instagram accounts.

Crew Dragon Reaches Orbit, News Conference at 7:30 a.m. EDT

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the Crew-2 Dragon lifts off from Launch Complex 39A at 5:49 a.m. EDT on April 23, 2021,
The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the Crew-2 Dragon lifts off from Launch Complex 39A at 5:49 a.m. EDT on April 23, 2021, Photo credit: NASA

The SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft carrying Crew-2 mission astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur, along with JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) astronaut Akihiko Hoshide, and ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Thomas Pesquet on their way to the International Space Station has safely reached orbit, and the nosecone has been opened.

A postlaunch news conference will be held at approximately 7:30 a.m. EDT at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center with the following participants:

  • Steve Jurczyk, acting NASA administrator
  • Kathy Lueders, associate administrator, Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, NASA Headquarters
  • Hiroshi Sasaki, vice president and director general, JAXA’s Human Spaceflight Technology Directorate
  • Frank de Winne, manager, International Space Station Program, ESA
  • SpaceX representative

NASA Television and the agency’s website will air the news conference. Mission commentary will switch to NASA TV’s Media Channel.

Follow along and get more information about the mission at: http://www.nasa.gov/crew-2. Learn more about commercial crew and space station activities by following @Commercial_Crew, @space_station, and @ISS_Research on Twitter as well as the Commercial Crew Facebook, ISS Facebook and ISS Instagram accounts.

Separation Confirmed! Crew Dragon Leaves Behind Second Stage

Crew Dragon Endeavour has separated from the second stage and is flying on its own. The spacecraft is traveling at approximately 17,000 miles per hour. About one minute later the dragon nosecone open sequence will begin.