Watch SpaceX launch its latest crew of astronauts to the space station for NASA

In the early hours of the morning, this time, SpaceX will launch its seventh manned mission into orbit send three NASA astronauts and an Italian astronaut to the International Space Station† Their launch will mark the beginning of a six-month stay aboard the ISS, part of SpaceX’s commitment to NASA to periodically fly astronauts to and from the laboratory in orbit.

The mission, called Crew-4, is SpaceX’s fourth operational manned spaceflight mission to the ISS for NASA. The company has flown NASA astronauts to the space station as part of the agency’s Commercial Crew Program, an initiative to use private spacecraft to take crews to low Earth orbit. SpaceX launched its first crew to the ISS on the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft in 2020 and has since gotten into a steady rhythm with crew follow-up missions.

On board this flight are two experienced pilots: NASA astronaut Kjell Lindgren and Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti of the European Space Agency, who have both previously visited the International Space Station. They will be joined by two rookie airmen for this trip, including NASA astronauts Jessica Watkins and Bob Hines, who were both selected to become astronauts in 2017. Watkins will also make history with her flight, as she will be the first Black woman to live on the space station as a long-term crew member.

“This is certainly an important milestone, I think for our agency as well as for the country,” Watkins said of her flight. “And I think it’s really just a tribute to the legacy of the black female astronauts who have gone before me, as well as the exciting future that lies ahead. And so I’m honored to be just a small part of that legacy going forward.”

From left to right: Jessica Watkins, Kjell Lindgren, Samantha Cristoforetti, Bob Hines
Image: NASA

Crew-4 takes place less than two days after SpaceX is brought back another crew of four from the space station, although that crew had no government fliers. On April 8, SpaceX launched four private astronauts to the ISS on a Crew Dragon for the commercial space company Axiom Space, which has contracted with SpaceX to launch a series of human spaceflights to the space station. The majority of Axiom fliers paid a reported $55 million each for their seat on the Crew Dragon, agreed to conduct experiments aboard the station, and helped Axiom develop protocols to send people to private space stations in the future. to launch.

The Axiom astronauts were supposed to return to Earth after an eight-day visit to the ISS, but their journey home was delayed by a week because of bad weather around Florida, where they had to crash-land. As the Axiom flight expanded, NASA had to push back the launch of Crew-4, as it took the agency about two days to get ready between landing and launch. Finally, the Axiom crew was able to get home on Monday afternoon, paving the way for the Crew-4 launch on Wednesday morning.

Once Crew-4 arrives at the space station, they will join three Russian cosmonauts, three NASA astronauts and a German astronaut from the European Space Agency who are already living on the ISS. The NASA astronauts and ESA astronaut help familiarize the incoming crew with the ISS before returning home on a private SpaceX Crew Dragon. They are part of NASA and SpaceX’s Crew-3 mission, which launched to the space station in November and is now coming to an end.

Crew-4 will launch at 03:52 ET atop SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket from the company’s launch pad at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. NASA plans to provide coverage for the launch at midnight ET Wednesday morning.


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