SpaceX is gearing up for another historic astronaut launch next month.
The private spaceflight company is planning to send four astronauts to the International Space Station for NASA on Nov. 14, the agency announced Monday (Oct. 26). Called Crew-1, the mission will be the first operational flight of SpaceX's Crew Dragon astronaut taxi and the second Crew Dragon mission to carry passengers on board. It is scheduled to launch on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 7:49 p.m. EST (0049 GMT on Nov. 15).
Riding the Dragon will be NASA astronauts Shannon Walker, Victor Glover and Michael Hopkins and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Soichi Noguchi, who will spend about six months at the orbiting laboratory before returning to Earth. The first Crew Dragon passengers were NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley, who spent 62 days at the International Space Station as part of the Crew Dragon Demo-2 mission earlier this year.
Crew-1, which was originally slated to launch Aug. 30, has faced numerous delays in getting off the ground. NASA pushed the mission to late September, then to Oct. 23, then to Oct. 31 and finally to early to mid-November, citing logistical and technical issues. The newly announced target date firms up that latter timeline.
The most recent delay was intended to provide "additional time for SpaceX to complete hardware testing and data reviews as the company evaluates off-nominal behavior of Falcon 9 first stage engine gas generators observed during a recent non-NASA mission launch attempt," NASA officials said in a blog post, possibly referring to SpaceX's aborted launch of a GPS satellite on Oct. 2.
Meanwhile, SpaceX isn't the only company working on launching astronauts into space for NASA. Boeing's CST-100 Starliner spacecraft, which failed to reach the International Space Station during its debut test flight last year, is expected to launch a second uncrewed demonstration mission in January 2021, with its first crewed flight to follow next summer.
If all goes according to plan, the Crew-1 astronauts will safely dock with the International Space Station after an approximately 8-hour flight. There they will join NASA astronaut Kate Rubins and Russian cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov as members of the Expedition 64 crew.
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