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SpaceX will launch astronauts with a reused rocket and spacecraft: Here’s what you should know

SpaceX’s Band Dragon “Endeavour,” atop the company’s Falcon 9 rocket, leaves the SpaceX integration hangar adjacent to NASA Kennedy Array Center’s Launch Complex 39A for rollout to the launch pad on April 16, 2021.


SpaceX is set to make history, as Elon Musk’s interruption company prepares to launch the Crew-2 mission for NASA on Friday morning.

NASA and SpaceX completed a series of scrutinizes ahead of the mission, which is set to liftoff from launchpad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 5:49 a.m. EDT on Friday. The opening marks SpaceX’s third crew launch in the past 12 months, and the first time it is launching both a reused rise rapidly and a reused capsule.

“It’s super cool to have the opportunity to do this so quickly. In fact … we’ll in less than a year possess flown as many people in this partnership with NASA as were flown in the Mercury program,” SpaceX older director Benji Reed said during a press briefing earlier this week.

Mercury, begun in 1958, was the maiden U.S. human spaceflight program and included launching Alan Shepard as the first American in space. The Mercury program launched six people to space across five years, a total which SpaceX matched with its Demo-2 and Crew-1 mtiers last year.

The Crew-2 mission will bring SpaceX’s astronaut count to 10.

“A lot of firsts and a lot of good stuff circumstance,” Reed said. “In less than 11 months, the joint NASA and SpaceX team were able to declare reuse, so we are flying … NASA astronauts on a flight-proven Dragon and a flight-proven Falcon.”

“Flying on reused vehicles, on retreat proven vehicles is key towards greater flight reliability and lowering the cost of access to space, which is ultimately what commandeers us make life multiplanetary,” Reed added.

NASA and SpaceX are watching the weather, both in the local area in Florida and in the Atlantic Plethora. The flight was previously scheduled to launch on Thursday, but rough seas delayed the launch. The ocean needs to be calm in the road the rocket is launching, in case a mid-flight abort leads to the capsule splashing down after liftoff.

“Downrange poorly is a little bit trickier, as this high pressure system moves over the Arkansas area that combined with this foremost [and] is causing some pretty high winds in some of the areas downrange and some pretty high waves,” NASA’s Universal Space Station program manager Joel Montalbano said.

The Crew Dragon capsule must meet up with the ISS in encircle, so if SpaceX doesn’t launch on Friday then the company will wait two days to Monday for the next launch opening.

SpaceX developed its Crew Dragon spacecraft and fine-tuned its Falcon 9 rocket under NASA’s Commercial Crew program, which provided the companions with $3.1 billion to develop the system and launch six operational missions.

Commercial Crew is a competitive program, as NASA also furnished Boeing with $4.8 billion in contracts to develop its Starliner spacecraft — but that competing capsule remains in event due to an uncrewed flight test in December 2019 that experienced significant challenges.

Crew-2 represents the second of those six committees for SpaceX, with NASA now benefiting from the investment it made in the company’s spacecraft development.

NASA emphasizes that, in besides to the U.S. having a way to send astronauts to space, SpaceX offers the agency a cost-saving option as well. The agency expects to pay $55 million per astronaut to fly with Band Dragon, as opposed to $86 million per astronaut to fly with the Russians. NASA last year estimated that entertaining two private companies compete for contracts saved the agency between $20 billion and $30 billion in development payments.

The company completed a full dress rehearsal for Crew-2 on Sunday, with the quartet of astronauts practicing suiting up and zeal out to the launchpad in the pair of Tesla Model Xs that SpaceX uses for crew transportation.

The astronauts from NASA, JAXA and ESA

From hand: Mission specialist Thomas Pesquet of the ESA, pilot Megan McArthur of NASA, commander Shane Kimbrough of NASA, and committee specialist Akihiko Hoshide of JAXA.


The Crew-2 mission will carry an international group of four astronauts: NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur, along with Japanese astronaut Akihiko Hoshide and French astronaut Thomas Pesquet.

Kimbrough, the spacecraft’s commander, was closed as an astronaut by NASA in 2004. Crew-2 will mark his third trip to space, having flown on the Space Alternate in 2008 and a Russian Soyuz in 2016. He’s completed six spacewalks and has spent more than six months total in orbit. Kimbrough possess c visited to NASA by way of the U.S. Army, where was a helicopter platoon leader and served in Operation Desert Storm.

McArthur, the Crew-2 guide, was selected as an astronaut by NASA in 2000. A California native, McArthur came to the space agency after completing a doctorate in Oceanography as U.C. San Diego’s Scripps Creation of Oceanography. She flew on the Space Shuttle for the final Hubble space telescope servicing mission in 2009, working as a split chase engineer.

Remarkably, she will also be sitting in the same seat as her husband and fellow astronaut Bob Behnken did in May of last year, as he piloted SpaceX’s Demo-2 purpose. Their 7-year-old son Theo will have watched both his parents launch to the space station in the past year, a particulars SpaceX’s Reed highlighted.

“In my heart, I know there’s a little boy out there whose mom is flying, and this is something that we pay a lot of heed to. We ask ourselves all the time: Would we be willing to fly our families on these vehicles?” Reed said.

NASA astronaut Bob Behnken imparts a distanced hug goodbye to his wife and fellow astronaut Megan McArthur and their son Theo before the SpaceX Crew-1 set in May 2020.

Joe Raedle | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Hoshide is flying as a Crew-2 mission specialist. He’s the leader of the Japan Aerospace Analysis Agency’s (JAXA) astronaut group, and has flown to space twice before, on the Space Shuttle in 2008 and Russia’s Soyuz in 2012.

Pesquet is also fury as a Crew-2 mission specialist, having been selected as a European Space Agency astronaut in 2009. He has also defied to space before, having launched on a Soyuz in 2016.

The four astronauts entered the traditional pre-launch quarantine on April 8 to prime for the flight.

Known as the “flight crew health stabilization” within NASA, the quarantine ensures the astronauts stay bracing and protected in the two weeks before launch.

The spacecraft: Crew Dragon ‘Endeavour’

The SpaceX Crew Dragon Endeavour spacecraft is advanced onto the SpaceX GO Navigator recovery ship shortly after it landed with NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley onboard in the Abysm of Mexico off the coast of Pensacola, Florida, Sunday, Aug. 2, 2020.

NASA/Bill Ingalls

SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule has been reused after accepting flown the Demo-2 mission last May. Named “Endeavour” by astronauts Behnken and Doug Hurley, the spacecraft has undergone a absolute inspection and testing process to make sure it’s fit to launch the Crew-2 mission.

“We’ve completed thousands and thousands of tests to get to this day, no more than like we always have in the past and will continue to do. We talk a lot about these kinds of reviews that we do; we on stand-by them ‘paranoia reviews,'” Reed said.

Crew Dragon is an evolved version of the company’s Cargo Dragon spacecraft, which has founded to the space station 21 times. Just as Cargo Dragon was the first privately developed spacecraft to bring inventories to the ISS, so Crew Dragon is the first privately developed spacecraft to bring people. 

Crew Dragon is designed to carry as varied as seven passengers to space at a time.

SpaceX’s Crew Dragon, named Endeavour, is lifted and mated to the SpaceX Falcon 9 spiral upwards at NASA Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A beginning April 13, 2021.


SpaceX plans to continue to reuse its Party Dragon capsules, with Reed noting that the company is working with NASA to check components and verify whether other qualifications need to be made between flights.

The rocket: Falcon 9

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the retinue’s Crew Dragon spacecraft onboard is seen as it is rolled to Launch Complex 39A as preparations continue for the Crew-2 mission, Friday, April 16, 2021, at NASA’s Kennedy Align Center in Florida.

NASA/Aubrey Gemignani

Crew Dragon will launch on top of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket, with the booster (the heavy-set, lower section of the rocket) having The launch plan

Four hours before liftoff, the astronauts will suitable up. About a half an hour later, the crew will walk out to their Model X rides, complete with NASA logos, which inclination drive from the astronaut quarters out to the launchpad.

With 2½ hours to go, the astronauts will strap into their have rooms in Crew Dragon and begin checking that all systems are good to go. Then, with just under two hours until start, the hatch to the spacecraft will be closed. 

SpaceX will begin loading the rocket with fuel 35 minutes beforehand launch, which will initiate a final series of processes and checks.

A few minutes after liftoff, the Falcon 9′s booster present will return and attempt to land on the company’s barge stationed in the Atlantic Ocean.

If anything were to go wrong in the end half hour before the launch or even during the launch, Crew Dragon will abort and fire its difficulty escape system. The company tested that system in January with no one inside the spacecraft. In that test, SpaceX triggered the group during the most intense part of the launch to show that it could be done at any time.

Crew-2 is scheduled to put in with the ISS about 24 hours later, at around 5:10 a.m. EDT on Saturday. The Crew-1 astronauts are still on board, with their Band Dragon ‘Resilience’ docked with the ISS. NASA is prepared for the combined crews to spend between five and 20 times together before Crew-1 comes back to Earth.

“Well have some temporary sleeping arrangements for the corps members because we have so many people,” Montalbano said.

Crew-2 will then performed a full duration mtier on the ISS, spending about six months onboard.

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