Cape Canaveral, Florida (AFP) – Four astronauts He arrived at the Kennedy Space Center on Sunday to launch the second SpaceX crew, which will be coming next weekend.
For NASAIt marked the long-awaited start of regular crew rotations on the International Space Station, with private companies providing elevators. There will be twice as many astronauts on the test flight earlier this year, and their mission will last a full six months.
“Make no mistake: Every flight is a test flight when it comes to space travel.” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstein said welcoming astronauts to Kennedy, “It is also true that we need to be able to routinely be able to go to the International Space Station.”
The crew of three Americans and one Japanese are due to launch away with the missiles Saturday night, provided Tropical Storm ETA does not intervene. It’s going to be a quick trip to the space station, which is a fast six-orbit flight that takes less than nine hours.
Astronauts have dubbed “Dragon Capsule Resilience” for all of the 2020 challenges: Corona Virus Social isolation, Protests Against racial injustice, and particularly difficult election And the campaign season. They’d been in quarantine for a week or two and took safety precautions – masks and social distancing – long before that.
“It has been a difficult year for everyone, for many different reasons,” said crew captain Mike Hopkins after arriving from Houston. “We felt that if the name of our car could give a little hope, a little inspiration, and put a smile on people’s faces, that was definitely what we wanted to do.”
The four will remain in orbit until spring, when their replacements arrive aboard another SpaceX Dragon capsule. The shipping version of the capsule will also continue regular deliveries of food and supplies.
SpaceX’s Benji Reed said the company expects to launch seven Dragons over the next 14 months: three for crew and four for cargo.
“Every time Dragon is launched, there will be dragons in space,” said Reed, Director of Crew Mission Department.
Meanwhile, another NASA taxi service, Boeing, is not expected to fly its first crew until next summer. The company is planning a second unmanned test flight within two months; The first one suffered from so many software problems that the Starliner capsule failed to reach the space station.
NASA turned to private companies to deliver space station shipments – cargo, then crew – after the shuttle fleet was retired in 2011. American astronauts continued to board Russian missiles at increasingly exorbitant prices. The last Soyuz ticket cost NASA $ 90 million.
SpaceX finally ended NASA’s nearly decade-long drought for astronauts last May, and succeeded in delivering a pair of test pilots to the space station from Kennedy for two months. The returning capsule was scanned by SpaceX after landing, which led to some changes for this second flight.
Engineers have detected excessive heat shield wear from scorching return temperatures; Hans Koenigsman of SpaceX, vice president, said the company has strengthened the at-risk division for the upcoming launch. Improvements were also made to the parachute altimeter system, after the chutes opened very low on the first astronaut flight. Recently, two Falcon rocket engines were replaced due to contamination from the red paint used for processing. Engine swaps resulted in a two-week flight delay.
Perhaps the biggest surprise from the SpaceX crew’s first flight was all the private boats full of Deportees that surrounded the capsule in the Gulf of Mexico after the August crash. Koenigsmann promises a larger no-go area and more patrols to return in the future.
Second crew has three veteran posts and a first timer:
Hopkins, 51, is an Air Force colonel and former space station resident who grew up on a pig and cattle ranch in Missouri.
– Cmdr Navy. Victor Glover, 44, is the only aerospace pilot and rookie. He is from the Los Angeles area and will be the first African American astronaut to move to the space station for a long time.
– Shannon Walker, 55, physicist born and raised in Houston, who previously lived on the space station; Her husband, retired astronaut Andrew Thomas, helped build the outpost.
– Soishi Noguchi of Japan’s space agency, 55 and a former resident of the station, will become the first person in decades to launch three types of rockets. It has already traveled on the US space shuttle and the Russian Soyuz.
They will join two Russians and an American who arrived at the space station last month from Kazakhstan.
Hopkins and his crew will ride to the launch pad Tesla – founder of SpaceX Elon Musk Another company – in color-coordinated spacesuits with the spacecraft. But behind all the good looks are “a lot of amazing abilities,” according to Glover.
“It’s a very elegant capsule.” Walker said in a recent interview with The Associated Press, “It has the advantage of making great leaps in technology since the last time we built a spacecraft here in this country.”
Noguchi, who and Walker joined the crew this year only, is especially excited about riding the dragon. In Japan, the dragon is considered a respectable mythical creature – “Almost a journey to heaven.”
He said, “It is an honor to learn how to actually train a dragon, how to ride a dragon.” “SpaceX has done a very good job teaching from inception to Rider Dragon in six months.”