After the successful manned test flight, it is time for the Crew-1 mission on October 31.
We can prepare for another exciting mission from SpaceX to the International Space Station (ISS). The American space company will again transport astronauts to the ISS next month. This time, however, it will no longer be a manned test flight, but the first real mission within the Commercial Crew program.
More about the Commercial Crew program
In 2011, the glorious Space Shuttle flights came to an end. And from then on, NASA relies on the Russian Soyuz capsule to launch astronauts. That has been going well for years. But the Americans like to be in control of their fate. They also believe that it is better to work with commercial parties than to compete with them. And that is why the Commercial Crew Program was founded. Within this program, various commercial parties, including Boeing and SpaceX, are working on a launch vehicle and space capsule with which astronauts can be transported to the ISS. Because this job has been put away by space companies, NASA has its hands free to focus on space missions that reach a little further than the ISS.
The so-called Crew-1 mission follows the manned test flight that took place at the end of May. At the time, NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley traveled to the ISS aboard SpaceX’s Crew Dragon. The launch marked the start of a new era, in which commercial space organizations will also commute back and forth to the ISS to deliver and collect astronauts. At the same time, this first manned flight of Crew Dragon was a final test flight, in which both the space capsule and the missile system and all systems on board were extensively tested.
In late July, after spending two months on the ISS, the two astronauts splashed into the water off the coast of Florida. This moment marked an important milestone, marking the manned test flight as a success. Recently, NASA has been reviewing all of the data collected during the test flight. And if everything is approved, SpaceX ‘Crew Dragon will receive the necessary certification that will allow the spacecraft to routinely commute back and forth to the ISS.
While NASA is currently in the final stages of assessment, SpaceX can actually be confident that they will soon have the necessary paperwork. And so the very first real mission as part of the Commercial Crew program is already planned: the so-called Crew-1 mission. The launch would initially take place at the end of September. But partly because of the previously discovered leak (see box), the launch date has been moved to October 31. Then SpaceX Crew Dragon will take to the skies from Kennedy Space Center in Florida on a Falcon-9 rocket. On board are Crew Dragon commander Michael Hopkins, pilot Victor Glover and mission specialist Shannon Walker – all from NASA – along with Japanese mission specialist Soichi Noguchi. The four crew members will be on the space station for six months.
A year ago, NASA first noticed a slight increase in the amount of escaping air. However, the quantity was so small that it did not cause any further concern to anyone. NASA did want to keep an eye on progress. At the end of August, the word got out: the amount of air escaping was increasing. And so it had to be investigated what exactly was going on. Astronauts on board the ISS were transferred to another section. In addition, all the hatches of the space station were closed so that mission controllers could monitor the air pressure in each module. These tests had to show in which module the leakage rate was higher than normal. Still, this seemed a bit more complicated than expected. Because the leak has still not been stopped.
The additional time is needed to ensure that all work, both on Earth and on board the Space Station, is completed before the Crew-1 docks at the ISS. For example, NASA wants to perform some additional tests on the mysterious leak. In addition, SpaceX is still working on the Crew Dragon and the Falcon 9 rocket and is putting the finishing touches on the i. The adjusted date gives both teams a little more time to complete the final work prior to launch.
The launch of the Crew-1 mission is expected to take place on Saturday morning, October 31 at 08:40 CET. And it promises to be another interesting mission. It is the first time that an international crew will travel to the ISS from American soil in a NASA certified and commercially built and operated American spacecraft and rocket. A moment that many Americans have been eagerly looking forward to.
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