Crew 2 arrive in Florida; NASA completes launch review of reused capsule
by Paul Brinkmann
Washington DC (UPI) Apr 16, 2021
Four astronauts arrived in Florida on Friday for their mission to the International Space Station planned for next week -- the third launch of people aboard a SpaceX rocket and capsule.
The launch, planned for 6:11 a.m. EDT Thursday from Kennedy Space Center, will mark the first time a reused Dragon capsule and Falcon 9 rocket fly with people on board.
"We're excited to fly on these flight-proven vehicles," mission commander Shane Kimbrough said during a live broadcast at the space center after the astronauts arrived.
"Certainly I think all [launches] until we get several years under our belt, should be considered test flights," Kimbrough said. "We're very confident in the team ... that's been working on the vehicles; we don't have any issues with that."
The crew includes Kimbrough and mission pilot Meghan McArthur, both of NASA, along with mission specialists Thomas Pesquet, of the European Space Agency, and Akihiko Hoshide, of the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency.
McArthur ride in the same capsule that her husband, astronaut Bob Behnken, rode to the space station in May for the historic first SpaceX crewed flight. The space company has refurbished the capsule.
"We got to fly by the pad and see our rocket getting ready to go, and it's just an amazing feeling," McArthur said. "There's nothing like it when you look out the window and see a spaceship getting prepared and realize that you're going to be riding on it in a few days."
The visit to Kennedy Space Center was a first for Pesquet, who previously traveled to the space station in 2016 in a Russian Soyuz spacecraft from Kazakhstan.
"I think we're living in the golden age of human spaceflight," Pesquet said Friday. "There's never been that many ways to go into space. It looks like everybody, every country has a project or a spacecraft that's capable of flying, or will be capable of flying soon."
NASA review advances first launch of astronauts in reused capsule
Teams of technicians and engineers will proceed toward a planned liftoff of the Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon capsule at 6:11 a.m. EDT on April 22 from Complex 39A at Kennedy Space Center.
The astronauts are expected to arrive at the space station a day later, marking the first time two U.S. vehicles will be docked at the orbiting laboratory, said Norm Knight, a NASA deputy manager of flight operations.
"The teams are doing this in the midst of the COVID pandemic, and we're pulling together. We're not letting that be a barrier," Knight said during a news conference Thursday.
NASA's Crew-2 mission will mark several additional historic moments for space travel. The booster launching the rocket will be the first SpaceX booster to be reused while carrying people. During the space shuttle era, solid-rocket side boosters were reused.
SpaceX also will reuse the Crew Dragon capsule Endeavour that launched two astronauts in May -- the first human spaceflight from U.S. soil since the shuttle era ended in 2011.
The reuse of such vehicles was a part of the review, said Steve Stich, manager of NASA's Commercial Crew Program.
"We had to look at how the structures would perform for an additional flight," Stich said. "We made sure all the hazards on Falcon 9 and Dragon were controlled."
NASA and SpaceX said they were evaluating one issue identified during review -- an error in the measurement of the amount of liquid oxygen loaded into SpaceX rockets. That issue would be resolved before the rocket is test fired in the next few days, officials said.
NASA has assigned American astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur for the launch, along with Japanese astronaut Akihiko Hoshide and French astronaut Thomas Pesquet of the European Space Agency.
The four space flyers plan to arrive in Florida on Friday for the third SpaceX launch carrying astronauts. SpaceX missions flew two astronauts to the space station in May and again in November.
Coverage set for NASA's SpaceX Crew-2 Briefings, Events, Broadcasts
Washington DC (SPX) Apr 11, 2021
NASA will provide coverage of the upcoming prelaunch and launch activities for the agency's SpaceX Crew-2 mission with astronauts to the International Space Station. This is the second crew rotation flight of the SpaceX Crew Dragon and the first with two international partners. The flight follows certification by NASA for regular flights to the space station as part of the agency's Commercial Crew Program. The launch, on a Falcon 9 rocket, is targeted for 6:11 a.m. EDT Thursday, April 22, from Lau ... read more
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