SpaceX's next astronaut launch for NASA will take place in just three weeks, if all goes according to plan.
Feb. 22 is the target launch date for Crew-8, which will send four people to the International Space Station (ISS) for a six-month stay, NASA announced on Wednesday (Jan. 31). That's more specific than the last update we got, which identified "late February" as the target.
Crew-8's Crew Dragon capsule will launch atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Pad 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Aboard the Dragon will be Matthew Dominick, Michael Barratt and Jeanette Epps of NASA and Alexander Grebenkin of the Russian space agency Roscosmos.
Dominick will command Crew-8, while Barratt will serve as pilot. Epps and Grebenkin will be mission specialists.
Crew-8 will employ the Crew Dragon capsule Endeavour, which already has four astronaut missions to the ISS under its belt. The spacecraft also flew the Demo-2 test mission in 2020 — SpaceX's first-ever crewed flight — Crew-2 in 2021, Crew-6 in 2023 and the private Ax-1 mission in April 2022.
Crew-8's Falcon 9 rocket, by contrast, will be flying for the first time.
"The booster recently completed stage testing and will undergo final assembly in the SpaceX hangar at Launch Complex 39A ahead of the Dragon and Falcon 9 mate," NASA officials wrote in an update on Wednesday. "Once all rocket and spacecraft system checkouts are complete, the integrated stack will be rolled to the pad and raised to vertical for a static fire test prior to launch."
Another SpaceX mission is scheduled to lift off from Pad 39A before Crew-8 does: IM-1, the first flight of Intuitive Machines' robotic Nova-C moon lander.
IM-1 will fly atop a Falcon 9 during a three-day window in mid-February, if all goes according to plan. SpaceX and Intuitive Machines, which is based in Houston, haven't told us which dates that window covers. But we do know that any launch during the window will result in a lunar landing attempt on Feb. 22, the same day that Crew-8 aims to lift off.
As its name suggests, Crew-8 is the eighth operational astronaut mission that SpaceX will fly to the ISS for NASA. The most recent one, Crew-7, arrived at the orbiting lab last August and will come back to Earth in a few weeks.
Crew-9, whose crewmembers NASA just revealed, will launch this August, if all goes according to plan.
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Michael Wall is a Senior Space Writer with Space.com and joined the team in 2010. He primarily covers exoplanets, spaceflight and military space, but has been known to dabble in the space art beat. His book about the search for alien life, "Out There," was published on Nov. 13, 2018. Before becoming a science writer, Michael worked as a herpetologist and wildlife biologist. He has a Ph.D. in evolutionary biology from the University of Sydney, Australia, a bachelor's degree from the University of Arizona, and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California, Santa Cruz. To find out what his latest project is, you can follow Michael on Twitter.