NASA is preparing for its SpaceX Crew-2 Mission, which will take off from Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy Space Center in Florida no earlier than April 20.
The four SpaceX Crew-2 astronauts will fly aboard the aerospace company’s Crew Dragon capsule atop a Falcon 9 rocket. The mission marks the first time in more than 20 years that astronauts from NASA, European Space Agency and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency fly together.
Crew 2 astronauts will be welcomed aboard the International Space Station by the crew of Expedition 65, including the Crew-1 astronauts who currently remain on board. In total, the ISS will have a crew of seven.
Crew Dragon will accelerate its passengers to around 17,500 mph and put it on an intercept path with the International Space Station. The Falcon 9 used to launch the mission uses the same booster as NASA’s SpaceX Crew-1, marking the first time that a flight-proven booster will be used for a crew launch.
Once in orbit, the SpaceX crew and mission control will monitor a series of automatic maneuvers that will guide the crew to the International Space Station. After a predetermined period of time in orbit, the Crew Dragon capsule will dock autonomously on the station.
Crew-2 astronauts will spend approximately six months aboard the station, conducting scientific research in areas such as medical technology, human health, and materials for the benefit of life on Earth, before returning in the fall. 2021.
During their time in the orbiting lab, Crew-2 astronauts will see cargo spacecraft, including the Northrop Grumman Cygnus and the SpaceX cargo Dragon, and perform a series of spacewalks to install new solar panels, increasing the station’s total available power from 160 kilowatts to up to 215 kilowatts. The crew will also test the Butterfly IQ Ultrasound, a portable ultrasound device used in conjunction with a mobile computing device in the space environment.
In addition, they will conduct various tissue engineering studies, ranging from bone, cardiovascular, muscle and liver health studies. a experience from the Target retail store will study the growth of cotton in microgravity to help identify hardier varieties of cotton that require less water and pesticides.
SpaceX Crew 2 Commander Shane Kimbrough will be responsible for all phases of flight, from launch to re-entry. He will also serve as an Expedition 65 flight engineer aboard the station. Kimbrough, a retired U.S. Army Colonel, was first launched aboard Space Shuttle Endeavor for a tour of the STS-126 mission station in 2008, then aboard a Russian spacecraft Soyuz for Expedition 49/50 in 2016. He spent a total of 189 days in space and completed six spacewalks.
In a press conference Monday, Kimbrough described the intense training the crew have undergone for the mission over the past year.
“You do a lot of academic classes, learn all of their systems, and then you progress through the simulator where you just do the kind of simulations with just you and your teammates or maybe just in our case, Megan and I as a pilot and Commander. And eventually you’ll embark on the simulation campaign with the SpaceX and NASA mission control teams weeks before we’re ready to fly into space. “
SpaceX Crew-2 pilot Megan McArthur will be responsible for the spacecraft’s systems and performance. The mission will be McArthur’s first trip to the International Space Station. In 2009, McArthur was launched on the space shuttle Atlantis as a mission specialist on STS-125, the last maintenance mission of the Hubble Space Telescope. She operated the robotic arm of the shuttle during the 12 days and 21 hours she spent in space, capturing the telescope and moving the crew members during the five spacewalks necessary for the repair and upgrade it.
McArthur told Monday’s press conference that the most intense part of astronaut training has been “the volume and variety of things we need to cram into our brains before we prepare for launch.”
“We’re not only learning a whole new vehicle that we’re going to launch into and how to monitor and operate that vehicle, but we’re also learning all the things we’re going to have to do while living aboard the space station,” she said. “And so it’s not just about looking after the space station, but also doing a variety of different science experiments.”
The crew is complemented by mission specialists Akihiko Hoshide and Thomas Pesquet, who will work closely with Kimbrough and McArthur to monitor the spacecraft during the launch and reentry phases of flight. Hoshide will also serve as the flight engineer for Expedition 65, and Pesquet will become a long-term crew member aboard the space station.
Hoshide, a veteran of two space flights, joined the Japan National Space Development Agency (NASDA, now JAXA) in 1992 and was selected as an astronaut candidate in February 1999. In June 2008, he flew to the International Space Station aboard the STS. -124 mission to deliver the Japanese experimentation module “Kibo”. From July to November 2012, he was 124 days on the space station as a flight engineer for the Expedition 32/33 mission. The Crew Dragon will be the third spacecraft that Hoshide has transported to the orbiting laboratory.
Hoshide said at Monday’s press conference that he was very happy to fly the new Crew Dragon and compare “the differences and similarities” with other spaceships he has flown on.
Pesquet was selected as an astronaut candidate by the European Space Agency in May 2009 and worked as Eurocom, communicating with astronauts during space flights from the mission control center. He previously flew on Expeditions 50 and 51, launching aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft and spending 196 days in space. Its mission also included two spacewalks to maintain the station: one to replace batteries on an electrical channel and one to repair a cooling leak and maintain the robotic arm.
Pesquet offered his advice to those aspiring to become astronauts with ESA.
“You must have an academic background because we live in a technical and scientific environment. You have to have some operational experience because you are also in a dangerous environment and your decisions have consequences and you have to be international, “he said.” With the European Space Agency we speak all languages and we let’s look with the Japanese, Americans, Russians and tomorrow maybe other nationalities aboard the space station. “
The crew hope the mission will inspire others to want to become astronauts.
“We are going to do our best to represent NASA and ESA, JAXA and SpaceX and the International Space Station and hopefully just by our actions and the way we are professional, the way we also spent a good time, it’ll just translate into some kind of inspiration to someone, ”Kimbrough said.
Pesquet added that having McArthur as the mission pilot will specifically inspire young women.
“We’re trying to get 50%, you know, in any bid selection for the national team,” Pesquet said. “It’s tough, but I think the fact that we have Megan is definitely helping the cause and hopefully the next astronaut selection for you is 50% male, 50% female hopefully. “
The Crew Dragon capsule, nicknamed “Endeavor”, is the same spacecraft used by astronauts Douglas Hurley and Robert Behnken during their historic Demo-2 mission. It will remain moored for the duration of the mission before unmooring autonomously with the four astronauts on board and returning to the Earth’s atmosphere.
After landing just off the coast of Florida, a SpaceX salvage ship will pick up the crew and bring them back ashore to board a plane for the return trip to NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.