Three NASA crew members and a Japanese astronaut are ready to launch aboard a SpaceX rocket on Saturday, bound for the International Space Station on the program’s first six-month routine mission since the United States resumed spaceflight with crew in May after nine years of dependence on Russia.
NASA on Tuesday officially certified as safe the Crew Dragon capsule developed for regular astronaut transportation by SpaceX, the company founded by Elon Musk that transported two astronauts to the ISS in May and back to Earth in August without major incidents.
“I am extremely proud to say that we are returning regular human spaceflight launches on American soil on an American rocket and spacecraft,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine.
The take-off is scheduled for 7:49 pm on Saturday (0049 GMT on Sunday) from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida with American astronauts Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover and Shannon Walker and Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi on board.
As of Tuesday evening, the weather forecast for Saturday was good.
They should arrive at the ISS eight hours later, at 9.20 GMT on Sunday.
The mission marks a climax for SpaceX, configuring it to be NASA’s favored – and thus far most trusted – transportation service provider as the agency awaits Boeing’s Starliner capsule, which has been held in testing and is not expected to be ready before l ‘next year.
SpaceX has been operating space station refueling flights with the cargo version of the Dragon since 2012.
“For the next 15 months, we will carry out seven manned and cargo Dragon missions for NASA,” SpaceX manned flight chief Benji Reed said during a phone call Tuesday.
“This means that (from December) starting with Crew-1, there will be a continued presence of SpaceX Dragons in orbit.”
The next manned mission is expected to take off at the end of March 2021, with one European, one Japanese and two American crew members on board.
ico / caw / bgs