The Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon capsule that will fly SpaceX's Crew-4 astronaut mission have made it to the launch pad.
The hardware was rolled out to Pad 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida today (April 19) to gear up for a planned launch at 5:26 a.m. EDT (0926 GMT) on Saturday (April 23). You can watch it live here at Space.com when the time comes, courtesy of SpaceX.
Crew-4 will send NASA astronauts Kjell Lindgren, Robert Hines and Jessica Watkins and the European Space Agency's Samantha Cristoforetti to the International Space Station for a long-duration stay. As its name suggests, Crew-4 is the fourth contracted crewed mission that SpaceX will fly to the orbiting lab for NASA.
But Crew-4 will be SpaceX's seventh astronaut mission overall. In addition to the operational flights for NASA, the company also launched two NASA astronauts to the space station in May 2020 on a test flight called Demo-2; sent four private spaceflyers to orbit on the Inspiration4 mission in September 2021; and launched the private Ax-1 mission to the space station for the Houston company Axiom Space on April 8.
The Ax-1 astronauts won't be around to greet Crew-4 when it arrives at the station; Ax-1's Dragon capsule is scheduled to depart tonight and splash down off the coast of Florida on Wednesday afternoon (April 20).
The Crew-4 rollout will be followed in relatively short order by a high-profile rollback at KSC. NASA plans to take its Artemis 1 moon mission off Pad 39B early next week and send it back to KSC's huge Vehicle Assembly Building to fix a few issues identified during a "wet dress rehearsal" test this month.
That test, which includes fueling up the core stage of Artemis 1's huge Space Launch System rocket, is an important prelaunch step for the mission, which aims to send an uncrewed Orion capsule around the moon this summer. The issues prevented Artemis 1 team members from finishing the wet dress; they plan to roll back out to Pad 39B in a few weeks and try again.
Mike Wall is the author of "Out There (opens in new tab)" (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall (opens in new tab). Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom (opens in new tab) or on Facebook (opens in new tab).