NASA’s Dragon Launched to the ISS: Date, How to Watch?
|The Crew Dragon "Endeavour" is lifted and mated to its Falcon 9 rocket at NASA Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A, on April 13, 2021. Photo: SpaceX|
The Flight Readiness Review (FRR) for NASA’s SpaceX Crew-2 mission to the International Space Station has concluded, and teams are proceeding toward a planned liftoff at 6:11 a.m. EDT Thursday, April 22, from Launch Complex 39A at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
NASA and SpaceX are gearing up for the second operational flight of the Crew Dragon spacecraft. Four astronauts will hitch a ride in the Dragon, lifted into orbit atop the workhorse Falcon 9 booster, on Thursday, April 22. It's going to be an early morning flight and here's how you can follow along live.
The Crew-2 mission is scheduled to lift off next Thursday
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon spacecraft will launch from historic Pad 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. It will be the second flight of this particular Crew Dragon; the same capsule, named "Endeavour," carried NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley to and from the space station last year for the Demo-2 test flight, according to Space.
Inside the Crew Dragon will be four Expedition 65 crewmembers, who will spend about six months in space: NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Akihiko Hoshide and European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Thomas Pesquet.
"The flight readiness review was very successful; we only had one exception," Kathy Lueders, NASA's head of human spaceflight, said in a news conference Thursday. "It needs to be cleared up in the next few days because it's got to get resolved before the static fire [test]," which was conducted on Saturday (April 17), she added. (Static fires, in which rocket engines are ignited while the vehicle remains anchored to the ground, are a common pre-flight checkout.)
|The crew for the second long-duration SpaceX Crew Dragon mission to the International Space Station, NASA’s SpaceX Crew-2, are pictured during a training session at the SpaceX training facility in Hawthorne, California.|
Bill Gerstenmaier, vice president of build and flight reliability at SpaceX (and former NASA human spaceflight chief), said in the same news conference that the teams "discovered there was a potential loading error, where we may actually be loading a little extra oxygen in our [Falcon 9] tanks." SpaceX's Falcon 9 rockets use liquid oxygen and rocket-grade kerosene for propellant.
Gerstenmaier added that other Falcon 9 missions have been flying successfully in this same configuration, but SpaceX only recently discovered the issue while testing the rocket on the ground in Texas. The company detected slightly higher levels of liquid oxygen than expected, but they have not yet figured out the cause of this discrepancy.
"We reviewed that with the NASA team today, but we didn't have enough time to really go over all the data and look at all the consequences of what that could mean," he said. "We're going to take the extra step" to review the issue and determine if it could pose a risk to the astronauts (or other future Falcon 9 launches).
How to watch Dragon launch to the ISS
NASA TV will live stream the launch, which will take place at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The event is scheduled for 3:11 a.m. PT on Thursday, April 22. It will take roughly a day to reach the station.
|NASA's SpaceX Crew-2 Flight Readiness Review takes place at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, on April 15, 2021. Photo: Kim Shiflett/NASA|
NASA astronauts Megan McArthur and Shane Kimbrough will be joined by the European Space Agency's Thomas Pesquet and Akihiko Hoshide of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency. All four have already been to space, prompting Pesquet to tweet in March, "I don't mean to show off but this crew might have the most combined experience in spaceflight history!"
SpaceX and NASA are moving into the business-as-usual phase of their Commercial Crew Program partnership. The early test flights went well and the Crew-1 mission in 2020 went smoothly. Crew-2 marks the second crew rotation flight for Crew Dragon and the first with two international partner astronauts on board.
NASA is looking toward fall for the launch of a Crew-3 mission, which could take off as early as Oct. 23. Crew-2 would look to return to Earth not long after that, cited by CNET.
The final launch readiness review is scheduled for April 20.
A backup launch window is available on April 23. After that, Crew-2 could launch on either April 26 or April 27, Steve Stich, NASA's Commercial Crew Program manager, added in the news conference.
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