NASA gave SpaceX the green light to transport four astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) next week after completing an official flight readiness review. Liftoff will take place as scheduled on April 22 at 6:11 a.m.ET at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
The upcoming Crew Dragon launch marks some firsts for Elon Musk’s space company. Not only is this the first crew flight using a recycled Falcon and Dragon craft, according to Phys.org, but it is also the first with two international partners. The Falcon 9 rocket has the same first stage as launched astronauts to the ISS in November, while the capsule (named Endeavor) carried NASA’s Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley back and forth from the space station last spring.
Both are reusable and are part of the larger line of SpaceX spacecraft. The Falcon 9 is a two-stage rocket designed to carry payloads and crewed spacecraft into orbit. It has the same Merlin engine as the bigger one Heavy hawk and was used in a total of 122 launches. While the Dragon is a capsule equipped with 16 Draco thrusters for maneuvering in orbit and several parachutes for reentry and landing.
This time, the mission’s astronauts include Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur, as well as Akihiko Hoshide from the Japanese Space Agency and Thomas Pesquet from the European Space Agency. They will spend six months aboard the ISS and replace the four members of Crew 1 returning home.
It only remains to fix a minor issue before the targeted launch. SpaceX vice president Bill Gerstenmaier said the company noticed slightly more liquid oxygen propellant being pumped into the first stage tanks than they realized. Engineers are currently ensuring that the disparity poses no safety hazard. If the issue is resolved as planned, the astronauts are expected to take off as planned and dock at the station on the morning of April 23. You can watch the launch live on NASA Television.
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