SpaceX's next astronaut mission will launch late next month, if all goes according to plan.
SpaceX and NASA have circled Feb. 26 for the launch of Crew-6, which will send four spaceflyers to the International Space Station (ISS) for a roughly six-month stay. That date is a slight push from the earlier target of mid-February.
Crew-6 will send the SpaceX Dragon capsule Endeavour aloft atop a Falcon 9 rocket, which will launch from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
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The mission is so named because it will be the six contracted astronaut flight that SpaceX flies to the ISS for NASA. But Crew-6 will actually be the ninth crewed orbital mission for Elon Musk's company overall.
In addition to the Crew-1 through Crew-5 missions, SpaceX also flew the Demo-2 test flight and private Ax-1 mission to the orbital lab in 2020 and 2022, respectively, and the private Inspiration4 mission to Earth orbit in September 2021.
The Crew-6 mission is highly international. Its crewmembers are NASA astronauts Stephen Bowen and Woody Hoburg, the United Arab Emirates' (UAE) Sultan Al Neyadi and Russian cosmonaut Andrey Fedyaev.
Bowen and Hoburg have been on the Crew-6 manifest since December 2021. Fedyaev came aboard in July 2022 as part of a crew swap agreement between NASA and Russia's federal space agency, Roscosmos. That same month, Al Neyadi became the mission's fourth and final crewmate.
Al Neyadi's seat on Crew-6 came via a 2021 contract between NASA and Axiom Space, the Houston-based company that organized and operated the Ax-1 mission.
"To ensure continuous U.S. presence aboard the International Space Station, NASA signed a contract in 2021 with Axiom Space to fly a NASA astronaut on a Soyuz rotation in exchange for a seat on a future U.S. commercial spacecraft," NASA officials wrote in a blog post last July. (Soyuz is Russia's workhorse crewed spacecraft, which has been flying astronauts to orbit for decades.)
"Axiom announced an agreement on April 29, 2022, with the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Center of the UAE to fly its crew member in the seat," agency officials added.
Crew-6 will briefly overlap with SpaceX's Crew-5, which launched to the ISS this past October. The four astronauts of Crew-5 will return to Earth shortly after Crew-6's arrival at the station, NASA officials said recently.
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