SpaceX and NASA to launch first operational crew to ISS in September

The Demo-2 mission, watched live by millions of people around the world, was NASA’s first crewed mission from American soil since almost a decade. It was also the first time astronauts launched into orbit aboard a private rocket and spacecraft – SpaceX’s Falcon 9 carrying the Crew Dragon (Dragon 2). While NASA is targeting bringing the crew (Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley) back home on August 2, the agency also announced that SpaceX and itself are also targeting September for the next mission to the ISS.

SpaceX’s and NASA’s next mission will mark the first operational crew to the ISS. The groundbreaking achievement of the first mission (Demo-2) was just to test out the capabilities of the Crew Dragon vehicle and all its systems, including automatic and manual control. The next mission, named Crew-1, will consist of 4 astronauts. They are NASA astronauts Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover, and Shannon Walker, along with JAXA astronaut Soichi Noguchi.

NASA astronauts Shannon Walker, Victor Glover Jr. and Mike Hopkins and Japan’s Soichi Noguchi training in a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule. | Image: SpaceX

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The launch will commence from Kennedy Space Center in Florida, taking the four astronauts to the ISS for a full-length stay, conducting science experiments and research, TechCrunch reports. However, this mission will be completely contingent upon SpaceX successfully completing a smooth splashdown of the Demo-2 mission, which won’t be declared a success until the safe return of the vehicle and its 2-member crew.

There are still many other tests for SpaceX to receive certification for Crew Dragon for the Commercial Crew Program. Recently, the Elon Musk company passed a critical test of the spacecraft’s “habitability assessment,” which involves opening/closing the hatch, operating the waste system, and moving cargo back into the Crew Dragon.

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The successful return of astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley, along with the smooth operation of the Crew Dragon’s landing system, will complete SpaceX’s certification from NASA for the Commercial Crew Program.

NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley preparing to head to the Launch Pad 39-A on May 30, 2020, for historic first SpaceX crewed launch. | Image: NASA

Though there was an earlier report that NASA might be testing an emergency escape procedure from the ISS, it seems like those plans (if any) are scrapped. The alleged drill was said to “rehearse” an “emergency” in which the four of the five ISS crew members will simulate a last-minute escape from the space station.

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