Liftoff of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon spacecraft, named Freedom by the crew, is now just five minutes away. Everything is proceeding according to schedule, and all is looking good for the Crew-4 launch!
Author: Jason Costa
Crew-4 Remains on Schedule, Launch 20 Minutes Away
The second stage of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket is being loaded with liquid oxygen, and everything remains on track for a targeted 3:52 a.m. EDT liftoff. Inside the Crew Dragon spacecraft are NASA astronauts Kjell Lindgren, Robert Hines, and Jessica Watkins, and ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti. Lindgren and Cristoforetti have previously traveled to the International Space Station, while it will be the first trip for Hines and Watkins.
Falcon 9 Fueling Underway
The launch escape system for the Crew Dragon spacecraft has been armed, and fueling of the Falcon 9 rocket is underway. We’re now T-35 minutes from launch, and the rocket is being loaded with RP-1 (rocket grade kerosene). The rocket’s first stage also is being fueled with liquid oxygen, and a few minutes from now, fueling will begin for the second stage.
Weather officials with the U.S. Space Force 45th Weather Squadron predict a 90% chance of favorable weather conditions for this morning’s launch. Liftoff is targeted for 3:52 a.m. EDT.
Crew Access Arm Retracts
The crew access arm has retracted and, in just a few minutes, Crew Dragon Freedom’s launch escape system will be armed. This will allow the Crew-4 astronauts to escape safely in the unlikely event of an anomaly from the moment the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifts off until the time they reach orbit – a timespan of roughly 12 minutes.
Liftoff of NASA’s SpaceX Crew-4 Mission Under an Hour Away
Liftoff of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon spacecraft, carrying Crew-4 astronauts Kjell Lindgren, Robert Hines, and Jessica Watkins, and Samantha Cristoforetti, is now just a little under an hour away. The mission director soon will give the “go” for propellant loading and, about 10 minutes from now, the crew access arm will swing away from the spacecraft as launch preparations continue.
Stay with us here on the blog as countdown coverage continues, or watch live on NASA Television and the agency’s website. More details about this mission and the Commercial Crew Program can be found in the online press kit, or by following the commercial crew blog, @commercial_crew, and commercial crew on Facebook.
Meet the Crew-4 Astronauts
Kjell Lindgren is commander of the Crew Dragon spacecraft and the Crew-4 mission. He is responsible for all phases of flight, from launch to re-entry, and will serve as an Expedition 67 flight engineer aboard the station. This will be Lindgren’s second spaceflight since becoming an astronaut in 2009. In 2015, he spent 141 days aboard the station as an Expedition 44/45 flight engineer. Board certified in emergency medicine, he previously worked at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston as a flight surgeon supporting space station training and operations and served as a deputy crew surgeon for space shuttle flight STS-130 and Expedition 24. Lindgren was born in Taipei, Taiwan, and spent most of his childhood in England before graduating from the U.S. Air Force Academy.
Robert Hines is the pilot of the Crew Dragon spacecraft and second in command for the mission. He is responsible for spacecraft systems and performance. Onboard the station, he will serve as an Expedition 67 flight engineer. This will be his first flight since his selection as an astronaut in 2017. Hines has served more than 22 years in the U.S. Air Force as a test pilot, fighter pilot, and instructor pilot. Before his selection in 2017, he was a research pilot at Johnson.
Jessica Watkins is a mission specialist for Crew-4 and will work closely with the commander and pilot to monitor the spacecraft during the dynamic launch and re-entry phases of flight. Once aboard the station, she will become a flight engineer for Expedition 67. Watkins grew up in Lafayette, Colorado, and studied geology at Stanford University, Palo Alto, California, and the University of California, Los Angeles. As a geologist, she studied the surface of Mars and was a science team collaborator at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, working on the Mars Science Laboratory rover, Curiosity. She also was selected as a NASA astronaut in 2017, and this will be her first trip to space.
Samantha Cristoforetti will also serve as a mission specialist, working to monitor the spacecraft during the dynamic launch and re-entry phases of flight. She will be a flight engineer for Expedition 67. This will be her second trip to space following five months in 2015 as an Expedition 42/43 flight engineer. Born in Milan, Italy, she was a fighter pilot in the Italian Air Force prior to being selected as an ESA astronaut in 2009. In 2019, she served as commander for NASA’s 23rd Extreme Environment Mission Operations mission on a 10-day stay in Aquarius, the world’s only undersea research station.
Hatch Closed on SpaceX’s Crew Dragon Freedom
The hatch is now closed on SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft, named Freedom by the crew. Liftoff of NASA astronauts Kjell Lindgren, Robert Hines, and Jessica Watkins, and ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti is just a little under two hours away (3:52 a.m. EDT) for the agency’s SpaceX Crew-4 mission.
Crew-4 Astronauts Secured Inside Crew Dragon Freedom, Ready for Hatch Closure
The crew has finished executing communication and suit leak checks with the launch team, and their seats have been rotated into position for launch. The seats in Dragon start out upright for easy entry and rotate to launch position, which allows for easy access to the display panels. Up next, the hatch on Freedom will be closed.
All Aboard! Astronauts Climb into Crew Dragon Freedom
The Crew-4 astronauts are now boarding SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft, which they have named Freedom, for this mission. Before entering Freedom, each of the crew members signed their name on one of the walls inside the White Room – the connecting area between the crew access arm and the spacecraft.
As the astronauts enter the spacecraft, their seats are configured in an upright position. Once the crew is securely inside, the seats will be rotated into a reclined position for launch, just before teams close Freedom’s side hatch – this coming up in a little more than 30 minutes.
NASA’s SpaceX Crew-4 Astronauts Arrive at Launch Site
NASA astronauts Kjell Lindgren, Robert Hines, and Jessica Watkins, and ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti have arrived at Kennedy’s Launch Complex 39A, where a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon Freedom spacecraft await liftoff.
In the next few minutes, the crew will take the elevator up the pad’s launch tower and walk across the crew access arm into the White Room – the final Earth-bound stop for the crew before entering the spacecraft.