NASA and SpaceX agreed to move Crew-1’s undocking and splashdown from Wednesday, April 28, following a review of forecast weather conditions in the splashdown zones off the coast of Florida, which currently predict wind speeds above the recovery criteria. Teams will continue to monitor weather conditions for splashdown ahead of Friday’s planned undocking.
The return to Earth – and activities leading up to the return – will air live on NASA Television, the NASA App, and the agency’s website.
Launch of NASA’s SpaceX Crew-2 mission with astronauts to the International Space Station is on track for Friday, April 23, at 5:49 a.m. EDT. The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with Crew Dragon spacecraft will lift off from Launch Complex 39A at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
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 will fly to the International Space Station for a six-month science mission. NASA TV coverage of Crew-2 launch preparations and liftoff will begin at 1:30 a.m. Friday, April 23. The Crew Dragon is scheduled to dock to the space station Saturday, April 24, at approximately 5:10 a.m. EDT.
For an April 23 launch, the U.S. Space Force 45th Weather Squadron continues to predict a 90% chance of favorable weather conditions at the launch pad for liftoff based on Falcon 9 Crew Dragon launch weather criteria. The primary weather concerns for the launch area will be flight through precipitation from isolated, low-topped coastal showers and onshore flow. Conditions continue to improve along the flight path and recovery area for the mission.
Today, Thursday, April 22, is Earth Day. To commemorate this day, NASA is hosting Earth Day in Space. Singer-songwriterShawn Mendes will join five astronauts living and working aboard the International Space to discuss how we’re all #ConnectedByEarth, asking questions from young people around the world about Earth Day, climate change and how the astronauts study Earth from space.
The event will feature NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei, who recently arrived to the space station aboard a Soyuz, joining NASA astronauts Mike Hopkins, Victor Glover, Shannon Walker, and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Soichi Noguchi, the Crew-1 team who arrived last November. It will air live on NASA Television, the NASA app, and the agency’s YouTube channel and website at 11 a.m. EDT April 22.
The Crew-1 astronauts are scheduled to depart the space station at 7:05 a.m. Wednesday, April 28. They will participate in their final news conference aboard the microgravity laboratory at 12:30 p.m. EDT Monday, April 26, about their upcoming return to Earth. Media wishing to participate by telephone must call NASA’s Johnson Space Center’s newsroom at 281-483-5111 to RSVP no later than 5 p.m. Friday, April 23. The news conference will air live on NASA Television, the NASA app, and the agency’s website. Those following the briefing on social media may ask questions using #AskNASA.
Crew-1 worked on a number of experiments as part of Expedition 64 to the International Space Station, including tissue chips that mimic the structure and function of human organs to understand the role of microgravity on human health and diseases, and translate those findings to improve human health on Earth. Astronauts also grew radishes in different types of light and soils as part of ongoing efforts to produce food in space and tested a new system to remove heat from spacesuits.
With the countdown clock and Launch Pad 39A serving as a backdrop, acting NASA Administrator Steve Jurczyk participated in a briefing for the Crew-2 mission at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Wednesday, April 21, at 8:30 a.m. EDT.
The briefing came after Crew-2’s launch was rescheduled to Friday, April 23, at 5:49 a.m. EDT, because of unfavorable weather conditions along the flight path. Although conditions around the launch site were expected to be favorable for a Thursday, April 22, liftoff, mission teams also must consider conditions along the flight path and recovery area in the unlikely event of a launch escape.
“We’re now scheduled for ‘go’ on Friday and the crew is ready,” said Acting NASA Administrator Steve Jurczyk. “I could not be more proud of the Commercial Crew Program, the SpaceX and NASA teams, and what they’ve been able to do to enable reliable, safe, effective transportation to and from space. We are looking forward to a great launch.”
Crew-2 is the second crew rotation flight of a U.S. commercial spacecraft with astronauts to the space station and the first carrying two international crew members. Mission astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur of NASA, along with JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) astronaut Akihiko Hoshide and ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Thomas Pesquet, will head to the International Space Station for a six-month science mission in the Crew Dragon spacecraft, which will launch on the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 39A.
“On behalf of JAXA, I’d like to express my gratitude to the launch team,” said Hiroshi Sasaki, vice president and director general, JAXA’s Human Spaceflight Technology Directorate. “Last night, I spoke with Akihiko Hoshide, and he is ready for launch. I am excited that two Japanese astronauts – Akihiko Hoshide and Soichi Noguchi – will meet together at the International Space Station. I’m looking forward to the Crew-2 launch and wishing them great success.”
The crew will conduct science and maintenance during their six-month stay aboard the space station 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 addition of the Crew-1 astronauts more than doubled crew hours spent on science 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.
An important scientific focus on this expedition is continuing a series of Tissue Chips in Space studies. Tissue chips are small models of human organs containing multiple cell types that behave much the same as they do in the body. Another important element of Crew-2’s mission is augmenting the station’s solar power system by installing the first pair of six new ISS Roll-out Solar Arrays (iROSA).
“It’s an exciting time for us,” said Frank de Winne, manager, International Space Station Program. “We will have much more time to do research, science, but also technology development that we will need for the future of the Artemis program and for the future exploration of our solar system.”
Crew Dragon will deliver more than 500 pounds of cargo, as well as new science hardware and experiments, including CHIME, a university student-led investigation to study possible causes for suppressed immune response in microgravity.
For an April 23 launch, the U.S. Space Force 45th Weather Squadron predicts a 90% chance of favorable weather conditions at the launch pad for liftoff based on Falcon 9 Crew Dragon launch weather criteria. The primary weather concerns for the launch area will be liftoff winds. Conditions also are expected to improve along the flight path and recovery area for the mission.
NASA TV coverage of Crew-2 launch preparations and liftoff will begin at 1:30 a.m. Friday, April 23. The Crew Dragon is scheduled to dock to the space station Saturday, April 24, at approximately 5:10 a.m. EDT.
Teams with NASA’s Kennedy Space Center Exploration Ground Systems and primary contractor, Jacobs, are fueling the Orion service module ahead of the Artemis I mission. The spacecraft currently resides in Kennedy’s Multi-Payload Processing Facility alongside the Interim Cryogenic Propulsion System (ICPS), the rocket’s upper stage that will send Orion to the Moon. After servicing, these elements will be integrated with the flight components of the Space Launch System, which are being assembled in the Vehicle Assembly Building.
Technicians began loading Orion’s service module with oxidizer, which will power the Orbital Maneuvering System main engine and auxiliary thrusters on the European-built service module ahead of propellant loading. These auxiliary thrusters stabilize and control the rotation of the spacecraft after it separates from the ICPS. Once the service module is loaded, teams will fuel the crew module to support thermal control of the internal avionics and the reaction control system. These 12 thrusters steady the crew module and control its rotation after separation from the service module.
Once Orion servicing is complete, teams will fill the ICPS. This liquid oxygen/liquid hydrogen-based system will push the spacecraft beyond the Moon for the test flight under the agency’s Artemis program. In several weeks, when fueling is complete, Orion will move to the center’s Launch Abort System Facility to integrate its launch abort system, and the ICPS will move to the Vehicle Assembly Building to be stacked atop the mobile launcher.
As NASA prepares for the uncrewed Artemis I test flight, teams at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center are also hard at work getting ready for the Artemis II mission that will send astronauts on a trip around the Moon ahead of a crewed lunar landing.
This includes assessing a new prototype “rainbird” system designed to protect the mobile launcher – as well as NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) – when the engines roar to life. The March 24 tests included running various water pressures through small-scale, 3D-printed nozzles to capture data that can be used to develop full-scale hardware.
The rainbirds will release enough water to fill 40 swimming pools in 40 seconds. This massive volume will help absorb the heat and energy when SLS, the most powerful rocket the agency has ever built, lifts off with the Orion spacecraft from Kennedy’s Launch Pad 39B.
While upgraded rainbirds – large-scale water nozzles – have already been tested and installed on the mobile launcher for the Artemis I launch, Exploration Ground Systems (EGS) found room for improvement. This led teams from EGS and supporting contractors to start testing another prototype system to distribute water more evenly to maximize performance ahead of the Artemis II launch.
“By running our prototype through a range of pressures, we can simulate what each of the rainbirds will see on the mobile launcher on launch day and have a better understanding of how they will perform when we scale them back up to full size,” said Dave Valletta, a design engineer at Kennedy working on the ignition overpressure protection and sound suppression (IOPSS) system.
A critical piece of the IOPSS system, the rainbird got its name decades ago when space shuttle developers noted that it looked like a garden sprayer.
“When we saw the pattern of the water discharge during the first test flow in the shuttle program, it reminded us of your common lawn sprinkler, only it did not rotate and was 100 times the size,” said Jerry Smith, a design engineer for mechanical-fluid systems at Kennedy.
Once prototype testing is complete, allowing better prediction of future spray patterns, the team will move forward with designing a preferred concept. That concept will be built and installed on the mobile launcher to undergo verification and validation testing, where the newly installed nozzles will be fully integrated with the launch pad to ensure they work as expected.
“The confidence check gained from these tests will lead us to developing full-scale nozzles for the mobile launcher,” said Gerald Patterson, IOPSS and fire suppression system operations engineer and test lead. “Once installed, they’ll provide more efficient water distribution across the deck and, ultimately, better protection to ground systems, the SLS rocket, and its crew for Artemis II and beyond.”