Station Crew Awaits Ax-1 Departure and Crew-4 Launch

International Space Station Configuration. Six spaceships are parked at the space station including the SpaceX Dragons Endurance and Endeavour; the Northrop Grumman Cygnus space freighter; and Russia's Soyuz MS-21 crew ship and the Progress 79 and 80 resupply ships.
International Space Station Configuration. Six spaceships are parked at the space station including the SpaceX Dragons Endurance and Endeavour; the Northrop Grumman Cygnus space freighter; and Russia’s Soyuz MS-21 crew ship and the Progress 79 and 80 resupply ships.

The integrated NASA, Axiom Space, and SpaceX teams have agreed on a plan for the Axiom Mission 1 (Ax-1) crew to undock from the International Space Station at 8:35 p.m. EDT Saturday, April 23, for a splashdown off the coast of Florida about 1:46 p.m. Sunday, April 24. The decision was made based on the best weather for splashdown of the first private astronaut mission to visit the International Space Station and the return trajectory required to bring the crew and the SpaceX Dragon Endeavour spacecraft back to Earth safely.

NASA will provide live coverage of departure activities beginning at 6:15 p.m. Saturday, April 23, with hatch closure targeted for 6:30 p.m. Coverage will resume at 8:15 p.m. for the undocking. Teams will continue to monitor weather at the splashdown sites prior to undocking to ensure conditions are acceptable for a safe recovery of the Ax-1 astronauts and Dragon spacecraft.

NASA and Axiom mission planning prepared for the possibility of additional time on station for the private astronauts, and there are sufficient provisions for all 11 crew members aboard the space station. The Ax-1 crew continues to work through previously planned mission activities. The Ax-1 crew and Dragon spacecraft remain healthy.

The departure of Dragon Endeavour from the space station will clear the docking port for the arrival of Dragon Freedom and NASA’s SpaceX Crew-4 astronauts. The earliest potential launch opportunity for the Crew-4 mission is 4:15 a.m. Tuesday, April 26, with additional opportunities Wednesday, April 27, and Thursday, April 28. These launch opportunities are undergoing a more detailed program review to ensure they align with integrated operational timelines. The teams want to provide a two-day gap after Ax-1 return for data reviews from splashdown and to prepare for the Crew-4 launch, including the staging of recovery assets.

The Crew-4 astronauts spent last night at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida rehearsing the countdown to their launch inside the SpaceX Dragon Freedom, the company’s newest crew ship. Overnight, Crew-4 Commander Kjell Lindgren, Pilot Robert Hines with Mission Specialists Jessica Watkins and Samantha Cristoforetti, put on their pressure suits and entered their vehicle conducting a successful dry dress rehearsal. The Falcon 9 rocket, with the Freedom perched atop, stands at Launch Complex 39A.

Expedition 67 crewmates Raja Chari and Tom Marshburn, who are also the SpaceX Crew-3 commander and pilot respectively, spent a little time on Wednesday with their upcoming departure activities. The pair, along with Kayla Barron of NASA and Matthias Maurer of ESA, will wait for the arrival of their Crew-4 replacements before returning to Earth a few days later inside the Dragon Endurance vehicle. The four astronauts had a light-duty day on Wednesday scheduling in some housecleaning tasks.

Over in the Russian segment of the station, cosmonauts Oleg Artemyev and Denis Matveev wrapped up their post-spacewalk activities today stowing their tools and discussing the excursion with specialists on the ground. The duo kicked off a series of spacewalks on April 18 to configure the European robotic arm for operations on the Nauka multipurpose laboratory module. Roscosmos Flight Engineer Sergey Korsakov started his day with electronics and communications maintenance before studying future spacecraft and robotic piloting techniques in the afternoon.

SpaceX Crew-4 Astronauts Enter Quarantine for Mission to Space Station

NASA’s SpaceX Crew-4 astronauts participate in a training session at SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California. From left to right: NASA astronaut and SpaceX Crew-4 mission specialist Jessica Watkins; NASA astronaut and SpaceX Crew-4 pilot Robert “Bob” Hines; NASA astronaut and SpaceX Crew-4 commander Kjell Lindgren; and ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut and Crew-4 mission specialist Samantha Cristoforetti of Italy.
NASA’s SpaceX Crew-4 astronauts participate in a training session at SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California. From left to right: NASA astronaut and SpaceX Crew-4 mission specialist Jessica Watkins; NASA astronaut and SpaceX Crew-4 pilot Robert “Bob” Hines; NASA astronaut and SpaceX Crew-4 commander Kjell Lindgren; and ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut and Crew-4 mission specialist Samantha Cristoforetti of Italy. Photo credit: NASA

NASA astronauts Kjell Lindgren, Bob Hines, and Jessica Watkins, and ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti, entered their official quarantine period beginning Thursday, April 7, in preparation for their flight to the International Space Station on NASA’s SpaceX Crew-4 mission.

The process of flight crew health stabilization is a routine part of final preparations for all missions to the space station. Spending the final two weeks before liftoff in quarantine will help ensure Crew-4 members are healthy and to protect the astronauts already on the space station.

Crew members can choose to quarantine at home if they are able to maintain quarantine conditions prior to travel to Kennedy. If quarantining at home is not possible – for example, if a household member can’t maintain quarantine because of job or school commitments – crew members have the option of living in the Astronaut Quarantine Facility at Johnson Space Center until they leave for Kennedy Space Center.

Additional safeguards have been added since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. Anyone who will come on site or interact with the crew during the quarantine period will be screened for temperature and symptoms. Lindgren, Hines, Watkins, and Cristoforetti will be tested twice for the virus as a precaution, as well as anyone who comes in direct, close contact with the crew.

NASA’s SpaceX Crew-4 mission is the fourth crew rotation flight to the ISS as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. Crew-4 is targeted to launch no earlier than Thursday, April 21, on a new SpaceX Crew Dragon, named Freedom, atop the company’s Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Mission operations teams will be closely monitoring the weather and operational timelines related to the Axiom Mission 1, NASA’s first Private Astronaut Mission to the space station. Additional adjustments to the Crew-4 launch date may be required based on weather and Crew-4 vehicle readiness.

Crew-4 will arrive at the space station for a short overlap with NASA astronauts Raja Chari, Tom Marshburn, and Kayla Barron, and ESA astronaut Matthias Maurer, who flew to the station as part of the agency’s SpaceX Crew-3 mission in November 2021. Also on station are Roscosmos cosmonauts Oleg Artemyev, Denis Matveev, and Sergey Korsakov who flew to the station on a Soyuz spacecraft on March 18, 2022.

More details about the mission can be found in the press kit online and by following the commercial crew blog, @commercial_crew and commercial crew on Facebook.

NASA’s SpaceX Crew-4 Trains for Upcoming Mission

SpaceX Crew-4 Preflight and Training
NASA’s SpaceX Crew-4 astronauts participate in a training session at SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, CA. From left to right: NASA astronaut and SpaceX Crew-4 mission specialist Jessica Watkins; NASA astronaut and SpaceX Crew-4 pilot Robert “Bob” Hines; NASA astronaut and SpaceX Crew-4 commander Kjell Lindgren; and ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut and Crew-4 mission specialist Samantha Cristoforetti of Italy. Photo credit: SpaceX

NASA’s SpaceX Crew-4 team – consisting of NASA astronauts Kjell Lindgren, Bob Hines, Jessica Watkins, and ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti – have been busy getting ready for their upcoming mission to the International Space Station. The mission is scheduled to launch Friday, April 15, from Launch Complex 39A at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

SpaceX Crew-4 Preflight and Training
NASA’s SpaceX Crew-4 astronauts – NASA astronaut and Crew-4 pilot Bob Hines (left), and NASA astronaut and Crew-4 commander Kjell Lindgren (right) – participate in a training session at SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, CA. Photo credit: SpaceX

During recent training at SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California, the crew participated in simulations focused on undocking and departing from the space station. All four astronauts practiced in a high-fidelity simulator of SpaceX’s Dragon capsule, complete with flight-realistic hardware, displays, and seats. Each astronaut gained experience suiting up and configuring the spacecraft for departure. Commander Lindgren and pilot Hines took their places in the center seats, with access to flight displays they’ll use to monitor the spacecraft’s status and, if needed, take manual control of the spacecraft.

Astronaut crews regularly train for all phases of flight, using simulations to practice normal operations and respond to any unexpected issues. These simulations typically include multiple “runs” for a given day, with crew and flight controllers practicing a specific phase of the mission. Using simulated data to train personnel, simulations introduce system failures and other challenges to give teams the opportunity to prepare for and understand potential anomalies that could arise during a spaceflight, all while arming the crew with the skills needed for effectively overcoming these challenges.

SpaceX Crew-4 Preflight and Training
NASA’s SpaceX Crew-4 astronauts train at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. From left to right: ESA astronaut and Crew-4 mission specialist Samantha Cristoforetti of Italy; NASA astronaut and SpaceX Crew-4 commander Kjell Lindgren; NASA astronaut and SpaceX Crew-4 pilot Robert “Bob” Hines; and NASA astronaut and SpaceX Crew-4 mission specialist Jessica Watkins. Photo credit: SpaceX

While at Kennedy Space Center for emergency preparedness training, the crew visited the launch tower at Launch Complex 39A and trained on the emergency egress system, which employs slide wire baskets that enable crew and personnel to safely and quickly evacuate from the launch tower in the event of an emergency.

To become more familiar with recovery operations, the astronauts found their sea legs aboard SpaceX’s Dragon recovery vessels that will be used by joint SpaceX and NASA teams to pick up the crew following splashdown at the end of their mission. Two identical vessels cover potential landing zones off of the coast of Florida. The astronauts also toured one of SpaceX’s hangars where Falcon 9 rockets are refurbished and prepared for flight.

The crew is scheduled for a science expedition aboard the International Space Station, living and working as part of orbiting laboratory’s Expeditions 67 and 68. Crew-4 will be the fourth crew rotation mission with SpaceX, and fifth crewed flight overall including the Demo-2 flight test, for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

More details about the mission and NASA’s commercial crew program can be found by following the commercial crew blog@commercal_crew and commercial crew on Facebook. For more Crew-4 images visit the Crew-4 Flickr album.