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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Riding in a convoy of Tesla Model X vehicles, the Crew-4 astronauts have a short ride to the launch pad before launching on their ride of a lifetime. Riding in one car together are Commander Kjell Lindgren and Pilot Robert Hines.
The vehicles carrying Lindgren, Hines, NASA astronaut Jessica Watkins, and ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti, are traveling to the pad in the middle of a convoy that includes support team members and security personnel. Waiting for the crew’s arrival at the launch pad is the Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon Freedom spacecraft that will send the four-member crew to the International Space Station.
The astronauts who will soon fly to the International Space Station on NASA’s SpaceX Crew-4 mission just walked out of the double doors below the Neil A. Armstrong Building’s Astronaut Crew Quarters and made their way to the Tesla Model X cars that will take them to Launch Complex 39A.
Since the late 1960s, Pads A and B at Launch Complex 39 have supported America’s major space programs, with Pad A used most frequently for launches under the Space Shuttle Program. After the retirement of the shuttle program in 2011, Pad A helped usher in a new era of spaceflight with the historic Demo-1 launch for the agency’s Commercial Crew Program, which returned human spaceflight capability to the U.S.
Below are some of the key milestones leading up to the launch of NASA’s SpaceX Crew-4 mission, as well as some critical events that occur after liftoff. The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon spacecraft are scheduled to lift off just a little more than four hours from now at 3:52 a.m. EDT from Kennedy Space Center’s historic Launch Complex 39A in Florida.
12:32 a.m. Crew walkout from Neil Armstrong Operations & Checkout Building
1:22 a.m. Crew arrival at Launch Complex 39A
1:37 a.m. Crew ingress into Freedom
1:57 a.m. Freedom hatch closure
2:43 a.m. Mission Director Go/No-Go poll for propellant loading
2:48 a.m. Final Go/No-Go for propellant loading
3:10 a.m. Crew access arm retracts
3:14 a.m. Dragon launch escape system is armed
3:17 a.m. Falcon 9 propellant loading begins
3:48 a.m. Strongback retraction
3:50 a.m. Falcon 9 propellant load complete and vehicle transitions to internal power
3:52 a.m. Liftoff!
4:01 a.m. Falcon 9 second stage engine cutoff (SECO)
Crew-4 astronauts Kjell Lindgren, Robert Hines, and Jessica Watkins, and Samantha Cristoforetti have finished putting on their SpaceX spacesuits and will soon depart the Neil A. Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building for the short journey to Launch Complex 39A. At the pad, a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon spacecraft stand ready for liftoff.
The Crew-4 mission will fly a new Crew Dragon spacecraft and will launch on a Falcon 9 booster that has previously sent four missions into space. It is tradition the first astronauts to fly a new capsule name their spacecraft; Crew-4 chose “Freedom” to celebrate a fundamental human right, and the industry and innovation that emanate from the unencumbered human spirit.