Crew-1: NASA & SpaceX’s first Commercial Crew Program mission
As the clock struck 1522 (ET) in Cape Canaveral on the 30th May, eager space fanatics from all over the globe witnessed Demo-2, the first crewed launch of SpaceX’s Endeavour that carried NASA veteran astronauts Robert “Bob” Behnken and Douglas “Doug” Hurley to and from the International Space Station. In the 63 days that Endeavour was docked at the station, the two astronauts participated in scientific experiments, installed several storage units (i.e. the European Drawer Rack for experiment apparatus/hardware storage and a “robot hotel” called the Robotic Tool Stowage), took photographs of the Earth and space walked four times. Ultimately, Crew Dragon Demo-2 marked the first American space-flight since the retirement of the Space Shuttle program in 2011, and the first two-person orbital flight since 1982.
In a historical follow-up to the Demo-2 mission, SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft Resilience will carry JAXA astronaut Soichi Noguchi, along with three NASA astronauts Shannon Walker, Michael Hopkins and Victor Glover, from NASA’s Kennedy Space Centre in Cape Canaveral, Florida, to the International Space Station for a six-month sojourn. Aboard the station, the crew will continue a variety of microgravity experiments, space walk and welcome crew from the next Crew Dragon mission in 2021 and Russia’s Soyuz craft. Dubbed “Crew-1”, the mission marks the second crewed orbital flight of the Crew Dragon and the first flight of the Commercial Crew Program (CCP), a collaborative human spaceflight program overseen by NASA, Boeing and SpaceX.
The official portrait and insignia of SpaceX’s Crew-1 mission. (L) Shannon Walker, Victor Glover, Michael Hopkins and Soichi Noguchi (R).
The launch was initially planned for the 23rd October (then rescheduled for the 31st), but has since been postponed to the 14th November to resolve what SpaceX CEO Elon Musk mentioned in a tweet to be an anomalous “pressure rise in [Falcon 9’s] turbomachinery gas generator” during a private launch of the rocket. Evaluations of these behaviours are currently underway. “[SpaceX’s launch and testing data] helps us make informed decisions about the status of our missions,” said Kathy Lueders, associate administrator of NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate. “The teams are actively working this finding on the engines, and we should be a lot smarter within the coming week.”
Ultimately, the Crew-1 mission represents a major step forward for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, which will further the development of spacecraft and launch system technologies (as well as microgravity research aboard the ISS) that is paramount for the future of commercial spaceflight.
So, set your clocks to 7:49 pm on the 14th November EST - that is, for us, 10:49am on the 15th November, AEST - for the launch of Crew-1 from NASA’s Kennedy Space Centre in Florida!
Winick, E., 2020. Bob Behnken And Doug Hurley’S Scientific Journeys Aboard ISS. [online] NASA. Available at: <https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/behnken-hurley-science-scrapbook> [Accessed 12 October 2020].
Mclendon, T., 2020. NASA And Spacex Update Target Launch Date For The Crew-1 Mission To Station – Commercial Crew Program. [online] Blogs.nasa.gov. Available at: <https://blogs.nasa.gov/commercialcrew/2020/09/28/nasa-and-spacex-update-target-launch-date-for-the-crew-1-mission-to-station/> [Accessed 12 October 2020].
Fingas, J., 2020. NASA Delays First Crew Dragon Operational Mission To November. [online] Engadget.com. Available at: <https://www.engadget.com/nasa-delays-spacex-crew-dragon-operational-mission-142824050.html> [Accessed 12 October 2020].
Lewis, M., 2020. Commercial Crew Program - NASA, Spacex Crew-1 Launch Update. [online] Blogs.nasa.gov. Available at: <https://blogs.nasa.gov/commercialcrew/> [Accessed 12 October 2020].
Image 1: Garcia, M., 2020. The Spacex Crew-1 Official Crew Portrait. [online] NASA. Available at: <https://www.nasa.gov/image-feature/the-spacex-crew-1-official-crew-portrait> [Accessed 12 October 2020].
Image 2: Kathy Lueders, Twitter