In the early morning hours, SpaceX is scheduled to launch its seventh manned mission into orbit, this time Three NASA astronauts and an Italian astronaut sent to the International Space Station. Their launch will kick off the start of a six-month stay aboard the International Space Station, as part of NASA’s SpaceX commitment to fly astronauts periodically to and from the orbiting laboratory.
The mission, called Crew-4, is SpaceX’s fourth operational human spaceflight mission to the International Space Station 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 specially made spacecraft to transport crews into low Earth orbit. SpaceX launched its first crew to the International Space Station aboard the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft in 2020, and has since begun with a steady cadence of manned follow-up missions.
On board this flight are two veteran pilots: NASA astronaut Kjell Lindgren and Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti of the European Space Agency, who have visited the International Space Station before. They will be joined by two debutants on this journey, including NASA astronauts Jessica Watkins and Bob Hines, both selected to be astronauts in 2017. Watkins will also make history with her flight, as the first will be a black woman living as a member of the station’s crew. space in the long term.
“This is definitely an important milestone, I think for both our agency and the state,” Watkins said of her trip. “And I think it’s really just a tribute to the legacy of the black women astronauts who came before me, and also to the exciting future ahead. And so I’m honored to be just a small part of that legacy going forward.”
Crew-4 takes place less than two days after the return of SpaceX else A crew of four from the space station, although this crew did not include any government publications. On April 8, SpaceX launched four special astronauts to the International Space Station on the Crew Dragon For the commercial space company Axiom Space, which contracted with SpaceX to launch a series of human spaceflights to the space station. The majority of Axiom’s passengers paid $55 million for their seat on the Crew Dragon, agreeing to run experiments while on board and help Axiom develop protocols for launching people to private space stations in the future.
The Axiom astronauts were supposed to return to Earth after an eight-day visit to the International Space Station, but their flight home was delayed by a week due to bad weather around Florida where they needed to spray water. With Axiom’s flight extended, NASA had to delay the Crew-4 launch, as the agency wanted about two days to prepare between liftoff and launch. Finally, the Axiom crew was able to return home on Monday afternoon, setting the stage for the launch of the Crew-4 on Wednesday morning.
Once Crew-4 reaches the space station, they will join three Russian astronauts, three NASA astronauts, and a German astronaut from the European Space Agency already living on the International Space Station. NASA astronauts and the European Space Agency astronaut will help familiarize the incoming crew with the International Space Station before returning home aboard their SpaceX Crew Dragon. It’s part of NASA and SpaceX’s Crew-3 mission, which launched to the space station in November and is now nearing completion.
Crew-4 is scheduled to launch at 3:52 a.m. ET atop a SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket from the company’s launch pad at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. NASA plans to provide launch coverage starting at midnight ET on Wednesday morning.