CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla., Nov. 10 (Reuters) – Elon Musk’s private rocket company SpaceX was scheduled to launch four more astronauts to the International Space Station for NASA on Wednesday, including a space veteran and two chosen young teammates to join NASA’s next mission. lunar missions.
The SpaceX-built launcher, consisting of a Crew Dragon capsule perched atop a double-decker Falcon 9 rocket, was scheduled to take off at 9:03 p.m. (02:00 GMT Thursday) from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida.
If all goes well, the three American astronauts and their European Space Agency (ESA) teammate will arrive approximately 22 hours later and dock with the space station 400 km above Earth to begin a science mission. six months aboard the orbiter. laboratory.
Takeoff was originally scheduled for October 31, but has been rescheduled several times due to a wave of bad weather. A delay has been attributed to an unspecified medical issue with a crew member, the first health-related launch postponement for a NASA mission since 1990. read more
Late Tuesday evening, the crew, their spacecraft and ground launch crews were all ready for takeoff, and “the time is ready for launch,” said NASA Commercial Team Director Steve Stich, to reporters at a pre-flight briefing.
German astronaut Matthias Maurer, 51, ESA mission specialist, joins NASA’s three astronauts on the SpaceX mission – flight commander Raja Chari, 44, mission pilot Tom Marshburn, 61 and 34-year-old mission specialist Kayla Barron.
Chari, a US Air Force fighter and test pilot, Barron, a US Navy submarine officer and nuclear engineer, and Maurer, a materials science engineer, make all their first space flights aboard the Dragon vehicle, called Endurance.
The three recruits will become the 599th, 600th and 601st humans in space, according to SpaceX.
Chari and Barron were also among the first group of 18 astronauts selected last year for NASA’s upcoming Artemis missions, aimed at bringing humans back to the moon later this decade, more than half a century after the end of the Apollo lunar program.
Stich said that the experience of space flights in low earth orbit and aboard the space station “is a great training ground for the kind of skills that we will need to return to the moon on Artemis.”
Marshburn, a physician and former NASA flight surgeon, is the most experienced astronaut on the crew, having recorded two previous space flights and four spacewalks. He was part of a 13-member team that helped assemble the space station in 2009 and returned to the orbiting outpost on a 2012-2013 mission.
Wednesday’s liftoff, if successful, would count as the fifth manned spaceflight SpaceX has completed to date, following its “Inspiration 4” launch in September that sent an all-civilian crew into orbit for the first time.
The latest mission would mark the fourth crew that NASA launched to orbit aboard a SpaceX vehicle in 17 months, building on a public-private partnership with the rocket company formed in 2002 by Musk, also founder of the maker of Tesla Electricity Inc (TSLA.O).
Their collaboration helped usher in a new era for NASA leading to the first launch of American astronauts from American soil last year in nine years, since it stopped piloting space shuttles in 2011.
The team scheduled for takeoff on Wednesday has been designated “Crew 3” – the third full “operational” crew from NASA and SpaceX made it to the space station after a two-astronaut test in May 2020.
The four “Crew 2” astronauts returned safely to Earth Monday evening after a record 199 days in orbit, crashing in the Gulf of Mexico off Florida after an eight-hour trip from the space station. Read more
The latest mission also follows a flurry of recent high-profile astrotourism flights. In July, two SpaceX rivals, Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic Holding Inc, launched back-to-back flights with their respective billionaire founders, Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson.
Last month, 90-year-old actor William Shatner, famous for playing Captain James T. Kirk in the original 1960s television series “Star Trek”, boarded a Blue Origin rocket to become the person the oldest to fly in space.
Crew 3 will be welcomed aboard the space station by its three current residents – two cosmonauts from Russia and Belarus and an American astronaut who shared a Soyuz flight to the orbiting platform earlier this year.
Reporting by Joe Skipper in Cape Canaveral, Florida; Writing and additional reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Editing by Daniel Wallis, Peter Cooney and Ana Nicolaci da COsta
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