NASA now plans to launch four astronauts on the International Space Station aboard aon October 31, a Halloween flight that will mark the capsule’s first operational use after a successfully piloted test flight earlier this summer.
The space agency had initially targeted October 23 for the “Crew 1” mission, just nine days after the October 14 launch of two cosmonauts and NASA astronaut Kate Rubins aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft and two days after the return of NASA flyer Chris Cassidy and two cosmonaut crewmates. Land on October 21 aboard another Soyuz.
By postponing the Crew Dragon flight to October 31
“The new target date will eliminate conflicts between the launch and arrival of Crew-1 from the upcoming Soyuz launch and landing operations,” NASA said in a blog post. “This additional time is necessary to ensure the closure of all open works, both on land and on board the station, before the arrival of the crew-1”.
1 Crew Commander Michael Hopkins, Pilot Victor Glover, Shannon Walker, and Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi are now planning to take off from Kennedy Space Center’s historic Pad 39A atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket at 2:40 am on October 31st.
Docking at the space station is expected around 5am on November 1. They will be welcomed on board by Rubins and his two crewmates, Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov. It is not yet known whether they can welcome their new crew mates on board with some Halloween treats.
NASA helped fund the development of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon eto end the agency’s sole reliance on the Russian Soyuz spacecraft for ferry flights to and from the space station.
Since 2006, NASA has spent about $ 4 billion to buy Soyuz seats for NASA astronauts heading to the station. With Rubins occupying the last seat currently contracted by NASA, the agency is counting on SpaceX and Boeing to keep the station fully equipped for the rest of its operational life.
SpaceX, with an initial $ 2.6 billion contract, designed a manned version of its Dragon cargo ship that would fly into orbit atop the company’s Falcon 9 rocket. Boeing designed its capsule under a $ 4.2 billion contract, relying on United Launch Alliance’s Atlas 5 rockets for travel to orbit.
SpaceX successfully carried out two mandatory Crew Dragon spacecraft test flights, an unmanned trip to the station in March 2019, and a piloted flight with NASA astronauts Douglas Hurley and Robert Behnken on board. They took off on May 30 and safely.
Boeing launched its Starliner on a, but major software glitches have ruined the mission, and a new flight is expected later this year or early next. A piloted test flight is planned for next spring or summer.
Meanwhile, NASA is counting on SpaceX and its Crew Dragon to send four astronauts at a time to the space station. Shane Kimbrough, Megan McArthur, Japanese astronaut Akihiko Hoshide and European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Pesquet plan to leave for the Crew 2 mission in late April, replacing their fellow Crew 1.