SpaceX and NASA are officially “set” to proceed with the launch of four astronauts to the International Space Station next week, with the completion of a critical flight readiness review on Thursday (April 15).
The Crew-2 mission is scheduled to take off next Thursday (April 22), which is also Earth Day. A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon spacecraft will launch from historic Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. It will be the second flight for this particular Crew Dragon; the same capsule, called “Endeavor,” carried NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley to and from the space station last year for the Demo-2 test flight.
Inside the Crew Dragon will be four members of the Expedition 65 crew, who will spend about six months in space: NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Akihiko Hoshide and the astronaut of the European Space Agency (ESA) Thomas Pesquet.
Related: SpaceX’s Crew-2 Astronaut Mission for NASA: Live Updates
“The flight readiness review was very successful – we only had one exception,” Kathy Lueders, NASA’s chief of manned space flight, told a news conference Thursday. “It must be clarified in the next few days because it must be resolved before the static fire [test], “which is currently scheduled for Saturday (April 17), he added. (Static fires, in which rocket engines ignite while the vehicle remains anchored to the ground, are a common preflight control).
Bill Gerstenmaier, vice president of build and flight reliability at SpaceX (and former NASA chief of manned space flight), said at the same press conference that teams “discovered there was a potential charging error, where we could actually be charging. a little extra oxygen in our [Falcon 9] tanks. “SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rockets use liquid oxygen and rocket-grade kerosene as propellants.
Gerstenmaier added that other Falcon 9 missions have been flying successfully in this same configuration, but SpaceX discovered the problem recently while testing the rocket on the ground in Texas. The company detected slightly higher liquid oxygen levels than expected, but they have not yet discovered the cause of this discrepancy.
“We went over that with the NASA team today, but we didn’t have enough time to go through all the data and see all the consequences of what that might mean,” he said. “We are going to go one step further” to review the problem and determine if it could pose a risk to astronauts (or other future Falcon 9 launches).
If the liquid oxygen problem is resolved as expected and everything else goes according to plan, Crew-2 will take off at 6:11 a.m. EDT (1011 GMT) on April 22 and dock with the International Space Station little more. 23 hours later, at 5:30 am EDT (0930 GMT) on April 23. A final release readiness review is scheduled for April 20.
A backup release window is available on April 23. After that, Crew-2 could be launched on April 26 or April 27, added Steve Stich, manager of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, at the press conference.
You can watch the Crew-2 mission live here on Space.com, courtesy of NASA TV.
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