Science & Tech

Watch live: SpaceX to launch its sixth crew mission in two years tonight

A Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon spacecraft are ready to launch NASA's Crew-4 mission.
Enlarge / A Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon spacecraft are able to launch NASA’s Crew-4 mission.

Trevor Mahlmann

On Monday afternoon, a Crew Dragon spacecraft named Endeavour splashed down within the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Florida. Now, lower than two days later, SpaceX and NASA are getting ready one other Crew Dragon for launch.

Monday’s touchdown returned a crew of 4 personal astronauts, whose 17-day spaceflight was sponsored by the personal firm Axiom Space. Since that automobile’s return, the supervisor of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, Steve Stich, mentioned house company and SpaceX engineers have been “poring over the data” on Dragon’s efficiency throughout its return by the environment.

“It was a very clean flight overall, with really no major issues,” Stich mentioned Tuesday morning throughout a press name with reporters. “The team has looked through a lot of the data, and they’ve had a chance to review everything. They’ve looked at the thermal protection system. They have looked at a lot of the GNC (guidance, navigation, and control) data from the flight. Obviously, the parachutes were very clean this flight. The mains all deployed and went to full open, almost in unison, with no indication of any laggard this time, which was great.”

NASA officers had been assured sufficient in Dragon’s efficiency to clear a new Crew Dragon crew capsule, Freedom, for launch at 3:52 am ET (07:52 UTC) on Wednesday morning from Kennedy Space Center. This Crew-4 flight will carry Commander Kjell Lindgren, Pilot Bob Hines, and Mission Specialist Jessica Watkins, all NASA astronauts, in addition to European Space Agency Mission Specialist Samantha Cristoforetti to the station. Weather at each the launch web site and for the downrange abort zones appears to be like tremendous.

Five days after Freedom docks with the house station, the 4 members of the Crew-3 mission that launched in November will start their journey again to Earth. This five-day handover will guarantee a continued presence of NASA astronauts on the house station.

The return of Crew-3 will mark the completion of SpaceX’s sixth human spaceflight in lower than two years. “That’s truly remarkable, because all of this has been done through the pandemic,” mentioned Jessica Jensen, vp of buyer operations and integration at SpaceX, on Tuesday morning.

SpaceX now has a fleet of 4 Crew Dragon automobiles: Endeavour, Resilience, Endurance, and Freedom. Company officers have mentioned that, for now, SpaceX doesn’t intend to construct any extra Crew Dragons. On Monday, the corporate’s director of human spaceflight applications, Benji Reed, mentioned he thinks SpaceX can presently assist as many as six human spaceflights a 12 months. This is a possible breakdown of these missions:

  • Two NASA flights to the International Space Station (till Boeing’s Starliner automobile turns into operational, after which this quantity can be one)
  • Two personal astronaut missions to the International Space Station, backed by Axiom Space or different personal corporations
  • Two free-flying missions, such because the Inspiration4 and Polaris flights

Jensen mentioned SpaceX is set to proceed flying people into house safely regardless of the speedy turnaround. “As exciting as this is, and as busy as everyone has been talking about, I just want to reiterate that safety is still and always the top priority,” she mentioned.

The webcast beneath ought to start at midnight ET, or 04:00 UTC on Wednesday.

Crew-4 launch webcast

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