The SpaceX capsule was intended to launch four ISS crew members into orbit “no earlier than late September”. But the launch of astronauts Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover, Shannon Walker and Soichi Noguchi has now been delayed to accommodate NASA’s Russian partners. The new timeframe will also give the US space agency time for a crew handover with the Crew-2 mission pencilled in for next spring.
NASA said: “Launch will follow the arrival of NASA astronaut Kate Rubins and cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov of the Russian space agency Roscosmos aboard their Soyuz MS-17 spacecraft and the departure of NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy and cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner from the space station.”
The Elon Musk owned firm is now targetting no earlier than October 23 for the Crew-1 mission.
After the success of the Crew Dragon Demo-2 flight in May and return in August, Crew-1 will mark the first operational flight of the SpaceX capsule.
The launch will be the first of many crew rotation missions to the ISS.
Once the Crew Dragon is fully certified for NASA spaceflight, the capsule will launch aboard a Falcon 9 rocket from the Kennedy Space Center, Florida.
NASA said: “NASA certification of SpaceX’s crew transportation system allows the agency to regularly fly astronauts to the space station, ending sole reliance on Russia for space station access.
“For almost 20 years, humans have continuously lived and worked aboard the International Space Station, advancing scientific knowledge and demonstrating new technologies that enable us to prepare for human exploration to the Moon and Mars.
“NASA is enabling economic growth in low-Earth orbit to open access to space to more people, more science, and more companies than ever before.”
Crew-1 will carry four astronauts, including Soichi Noguchi of the Japanese space agency JAXA.
The aeronautical engineer will serve as a mission specialist.
He has previously flown on the Space Shuttle STS-114 mission – the first flight of the Space Shuttle after the Columbia disaster in 2003.
Mr Noguchi was then assigned to ISS Expedition 22/21 alongside astronaut Timothy Creamer and cosmonaut Oleg Kotov.
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Crew-1 will mark his third flight into space and he will become the first non-American to fly three different spacecraft: Space Shuttle, Soyuz and Crew Dragon.
Pending the success of Crew-1, Crew-2 is expected to launch in the spring of 2021.
The Crew Dragon’s second flight will carry NASA’s Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur, Japan’s Akihiko Hoshide and the European Space Agency’s Thomas Pesquet.
The ISS typically houses rotating crews of six astronauts at any one time, although temporary crews of up to nine can be accommodated.
NASA has partnered with SpaceX and Boeing to develop safe, reliable and more cost-effective means of ferrying crews to the ISS.
Since the retirement of the Space Shuttle, NASA has relied on its Russian partners to purchase costly seats on the Soyuz.
NASA said: “The goal of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program is safe, reliable and cost-effective transportation to and from the International Space Station.
“This could allow for additional research time and increase the opportunity for discovery aboard humanity’s testbed for exploration, including helping us prepare for human exploration of the Moon and Mars.”
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