SpaceX and NASA are officially “go” to continue with launching four astronauts to the International Space Station next week, with the finish of a critical flight readiness on Thursday (April 15).
The Crew-2 mission is planned to lift off next Thursday (April 22), which likewise turns out to be Earth Day. A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon spacecraft will launch from memorable Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. It will be the second flight of this particular Crew Dragon; a same capsule, named “Endeavour,” carried NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley to and from the space station a year ago for the Demo-2 test flight.
Inside the Crew Dragon will be four Expedition 65 crewmembers, who will go through around a half year in space: NASA space travelers Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) space traveler Akihiko Hoshide and European Space Agency (ESA) space traveler Thomas Pesquet.
“The flight readiness review was very successful; we only had one exception,” Kathy Lueders, NASA’s head of human spaceflight, said in a news conference Thursday. “It needs to be cleared up in the next few days because it’s got to get resolved before the static fire [test],” which is at present booked for Saturday (April 17), she added. (Static flames, in which rocket engines are ignited while the vehicle remains secured to the ground, are a typical pre-flight checkout.)
Bill Gerstenmaier, VP of build and flight reliability at SpaceX (and previous NASA human spaceflight boss), said in the very news gathering that the groups “discovered there was a potential loading error, where we may actually be loading a little extra oxygen in our [Falcon 9] tanks.” SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rockets utilize liquid oxygen and rocket-grade kerosene for propellant.
Gerstenmaier added that other Falcon 9 missions have been flying effectively in this equivalent configuration, yet SpaceX as of late found the issue while testing the rocket on the ground in Texas. The organization recognized somewhat more significant levels of fluid oxygen than anticipated, however they have not yet sorted out the reason for this discrepancy.
“We reviewed that with the NASA team today, but we didn’t have enough time to really go over all the data and look at all the consequences of what that could mean,” he said. “We’re going to take the extra step” to review the issue and determine if it could pose a risk to the astronauts (or other future Falcon 9 launches).
In the event that the liquid oxygen issue is settled true to form and all else works out as expected, Crew-2 will take off at 6:11 a.m. EDT (1011 GMT) on April 22 and dock with the International Space Station a little more than 23 hours after the fact, at 5:30 a.m. EDT (0930 GMT) on April 23. A last launch readiness review is planned for April 20.
A backup launch window is accessible on April 23. From that point onward, Crew-2 could dispatch on either April 26 or April 27, Steve Stich, NASA’s Commercial Crew Program manager, included the news conference.
You can watch the Crew-2 mission live here on Space.com, kindness of NASA TV.