NASA Updates Commercial Crew Flight Manifest to Space Station

NASA meatballNASA and its mission partners are gearing up for a busy 2023 with crew launches and returns from the International Space Station. NASA worked closely with its international partners and commercial crew providers, Boeing and SpaceX, to secure new target launch dates for the upcoming flights that are optimal for space station needs.

NASA’s Boeing Crew Flight Test astronauts Barry “Butch” Wilmore and Sunita “Suni” Williams
NASA’s Boeing Crew Flight Test astronauts Barry “Butch” Wilmore and Sunita “Suni” Williams pose for a picture during T-38 pre-flight activities at Ellington Field in Houston on Aug. 16, 2022. Photo credit: NASA/Robert Markowitz

Starliner Flight Date Targets

NASA and Boeing now are targeting April 2023 for the agency’s Crew Flight Test (CFT), the first flight with astronauts on the company’s CST-100 Starliner. The date adjustment deconflicts visiting spacecraft traffic at the space station as NASA and Boeing work together to achieve flight readiness.

The team continues to make progress toward Starliner’s crewed flight following the successful uncrewed Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2) to the space station in May. Starliner and United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V rocket hardware remain on track for readiness in early 2023. The joint team continues to close out the OFT-2 anomalies and partner closely together to identify forward work and ensure all requirements for crewed flight are met. NASA and Boeing currently are working on a variety of verification efforts across several critical systems that will be used for Starliner’s crew flight certification.

For CFT, Boeing recently completed the exterior of the Starliner crew module with the installation of the forward heat shield and entry cover. The previously flown crew module, named Calypso, will be connected to a new service module later this year. Formal qualification testing on the CFT version of Starliner’s flight software was completed last month. NASA astronauts Barry “Butch” Wilmore and Suni Williams, CFT’s commander and pilot, respectively, and Mike Fincke, backup spacecraft test pilot, along with the Boeing team, also successfully completed the crew validation test during which the astronauts suited up and tested out the pressurized crew module to ensure seat fit, suit functionality, cabin temperature, audio system and day of launch operations.

The CFT astronauts will live and work on the space station for about two weeks. Following a successful crewed flight, NASA will work to complete certification of the Starliner spacecraft and systems for regular crew rotation missions to the space station. A launch date for NASA’s Boeing Starliner-1 mission will be determined following a successful flight test with astronauts and close out of the agency’s certification work.

SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft for NASA's SpaceX Crew-5 mission
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the company’s Dragon spacecraft onboard is seen at Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A on Oct. 1, 2022, four days before liftoff of NASA’s SpaceX Crew-5 mission. Photo credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky

SpaceX Flight Date Targets

NASA and SpaceX are targeting mid-February 2023, for launch of the agency’s Crew-6 mission to the International Space Station.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket will launch Dragon and NASA astronauts Stephen Bowen and Woody Hoburg, United Arab Emirates astronaut Sultan AlNeyadi, and Roscosmos cosmonaut Andrei Fedyaev to the space station from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The crew will spend approximately six months on the space station, starting with a short handover with Crew-5, which arrived at the station in October for a science expedition at the microgravity laboratory.

SpaceX certification and Falcon 9 hardware remain on track for the sixth crew rotation mission of the company’s human space transportation system and its seventh flight with NASA astronauts, including the Demo-2 test flight, to the space station.

The Crew-6 mission will be Dragon Endeavour’s fourth flight to the space station, which previously supported the Demo-2, Crew-2, and Axiom Mission 1 (Ax-1) missions, making the spacecraft the fleet leader in number of flights to and from the station. The Dragon spacecraft currently is undergoing refurbishment at SpaceX’s Dragonland facility at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida.

NASA and SpaceX also are targeting fall 2023 for launch of the agency’s Crew-7 mission to the International Space Station, ahead of the return of Crew-6.

Find out more about NASA’s Commercial Crew Program at:

https://www.nasa.gov/commercialcrew

 

NASA’s SpaceX Crew-4 Space Station Departure Delayed for Weather

The SpaceX Crew-4 astronauts are seated inside the Dragon Freedom crew ship. The commercial crew quartet (from left) are Mission Specialist Jessica Watkins, Pilot Robert Hines, Commander Kjell Lindgren, and Mission Specialist Samantha Cristorforetti. Photo credit: SpaceX

NASA and SpaceX now are targeting no earlier than 10:05 a.m. EDT Thursday, Oct. 13, for the agency’s Crew-4 undocking from the International Space Station to begin the return trip to Earth completing a nearly six-month science mission in orbit. Splashdown is targeted several hours later at 5:43 p.m. Thursday off the coast of Florida.

Mission teams continue to monitor a cold front passing over Florida with the potential to bring high winds and rainy weather near the splashdown zones off the Atlantic and Gulf coasts. Mission teams will continue to monitor splashdown and recovery conditions with another weather review around six hours prior to undocking.

Crew 4’s Dragon undocking depends on a variety of factors, including spacecraft readiness, recovery team readiness, weather, sea states, and other factors. Dragon Freedom remains healthy while currently docked to the space station. Back-up undocking opportunities also are available Friday, Oct. 14.

NASA will provide live coverage of the upcoming return activities for the Crew-4 mission with NASA astronauts Bob Hines, Kjell Lindgren, and Jessica Watkins, as well as ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti.

Dragon’s hatch closing, undocking, and splashdown coverage will air live on NASA Television, the NASA app, and the agency’s website. NASA also will host an audio only post-splashdown news teleconference. Follow all live events at:

https://www.nasa.gov/live

NASA’s SpaceX Crew-4 return coverage is as follows (all times Eastern):

Thursday, Oct. 13

8 a.m. – Hatch closure coverage begins for 8:20 a.m. hatch closing
9:45 a.m. – Undocking coverage begins for 10:05 a.m. undocking with a Thursday splashdown
5:43 p.m. – Splashdown off the coast of Florida
7 p.m. – Return to Earth media teleconference call from NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston with:

  • Steve Stich, manager, Commercial Crew Program, NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida
  • Joel Montalbano, manger, International Space Station, NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston
  • SpaceX Representative

NASA, Axiom Space, SpaceX Wave Off Private Astronaut Mission Undocking

The SpaceX Dragon Endeavour crew ship is pictured docked to the Harmony module

NASA, Axiom Space, and SpaceX waved off the undocking opportunity of Axiom Mission 1 from the International Space Station on Tuesday, April 19 due to unfavorable weather conditions for return. The integrated NASA, Axiom Space, and SpaceX teams are continuing to assess the next best opportunity for return of the first private astronaut mission to the orbiting laboratory based on weather conditions and space station operations.