NASA announced Monday that the launch of the first operational crew rotation mission to the International Space Station on SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft is set for the hours before sunrise on Halloween, eight days later than previously planned.
The Crew Dragon spaceship is expected to take off on a Falcon 9 rocket from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center Pad 39A in Florida at around 2:40 am EDT (0640 GMT) on Oct.31, the space agency said.
If the mission takes off as planned, the crew capsule will dock with the International Space Station about a day later, at the end of October 31st or beginning of November 1st.
Commander Michael Hopkins will lead the crew of four. He will be joined by pilot Victor Glover and mission specialists Shannon Walker and Soichi Noguchi to kick off a six-month expedition to the space station.
The mission, known as Crew-1, was previously scheduled for launch on October 23. NASA said the October 31 delay will “de-focus” the launch and docking of Crew 1 with the expected arrival on October 14 of a three-person Soyuz crew at the space station and the departure and landing of a crew of the outgoing station on 21 October.
“This additional time is needed to ensure that all open works, both on the ground and aboard the station, are closed before crew-1 arrives,” NASA said.
The delay will also give engineers more time to conduct further tests to isolate a small air leak inside the space station’s pressurized cabin. Greg Dorth, NASA manager of the space station’s external integration office, said on Monday that the leak is “very, very small”.
“The loss is not a crew safety nor a station safety issue,” Dorth said Monday. It’s a very, very small loss. It’s an impact on our consumables, but we’ve planned for that. We can deal with the leak while we continue the investigation. “
The three space station residents spent three isolated days in the Russian segment of the complex in August, and the crew spent another weekend in the Russian section of the station last weekend trying to help ground crews isolate the site. of the loss.
“As of this morning, there was no clear indication of where the leak was,” Dorth said Monday. “The teams are still examining the data and evaluating it, and we will continue to look for this very, very small leak.”
NASA said SpaceX “continues to make progress in preparations for the Crew Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket, and the modified date gives teams more time to complete the open work before launch.”
Hopkins and his teammates finished training on Crew Dragon systems last week at the SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California. “We have our license to fly!” Glover tweeted.
Crew-1 is complete with Dragon Rider training. We have our license to fly! Thanks to everything that made this possible. We hope to make you proud! pic.twitter.com/HA2AYz77Bj
– Victor Glover (@VicGlover) September 26, 2020
The Crew-1 mission follows a successful test flight known as Demo-2, in which NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken flew to the space station for a two-month mission to extract the human-classified capsule before i officials regularly authorize missions.
Hurley and Behnken were launched on May 30 and returned to Earth on August 2.
Starting with Crew-1, SpaceX plans to launch multiple Crew Dragon missions per year with NASA astronauts, international crew members, and private paying passengers. NASA is in the final stages of formal certification of the Crew Dragon for operational missions.
Noguchi also tweeted last week that the crew-1 astronauts had completed their final underwater spacewalk training at NASA’s Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory near the Johnson Space Center in Houston. Astronauts train in a giant pool to mimic the zero-gravity conditions in orbit.
– NOGUCHI, Soichi 野 口 聡 – （の ぐ ち そ う い ち） (@Astro_Soichi) 25 September 2020
NASA plans to host a series of press conferences on Tuesday to preview the Crew-1 mission.
The four-person crew slated for launch on October 31 will remain aboard the space station until approximately April 2021, when another Crew Dragon spacecraft will dock with a new crew of four astronauts. Hopkins and his crewmates will then depart in their Crew Dragon capsule to head for a parachute-assisted splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean or the Gulf of Mexico.
SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft is one of two new U.S. spaceships designed to ferry astronauts to and from the space station. Developed under a multibillion-dollar contract with NASA, the Crew Dragon commercial capsule is also configured to carry private astronauts into low Earth orbit, starting with a 10-day mission this October that is expected to include actor Tom. Cruise.
Boeing’s Starliner crew capsule is designed with the same mission types as Crew Dragon. But the Starliner program suffered delays, an unmanned test flight of a Starliner spacecraft in December 2019 ended prematurely after a software bug prevented it from docking with the space station.
NASA and Boeing have agreed to launch a second Starliner test flight without astronauts to ensure software issues are resolved before the first Starliner demonstration mission with crew members.
The second unmanned Starliner test flight is currently slated to launch in January aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket. If it goes well, Boeing may be ready to fly another Starliner to the space station with Boeing test pilot Chris Ferguson and NASA astronauts Mike Fincke and Nicole Mann no earlier than June 2021.
So NASA could approve Boeing’s Starliner to initiate regular trips to and from the space station. NASA’s contracts with Boeing and SpaceX each include provisions for six crew rotation missions to the space station through 2024.
As new US vehicles are coming online, Russian Soyuz missions will continue to carry space station crews over the next few years. Russian technicians at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan are preparing the Soyuz MS-17 spacecraft for launch at 1:45 am EDT (0545 GMT) on October 14 with Russian cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov, Sergey Kud-Sverchkov and the NASA astronaut Kate Rubins for her six-month work on the space station.
Ryzhikov, Kud-Sverchkov and Rubins will dock at the space station about three hours after take-off, joining station commander Chris Cassidy and his Russian crewmates Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner.
Cassidy, Ivanishin, and Vagner have been on the space station since April. They are expected to leave the station and return to Earth in their Soyuz MS-16 capsule on 21 October.
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