Space Force Guardian to reach orbit for 1st time on SpaceX's Crew-9 astronaut launch

a man in a black military suit
U.S. Space Force Col. Nick Hague will serve as the pilot on NASA’s Space X Crew-9 mission aboard the Dragon spacecraft that will take him and his crewmates to the International Space Station. (Image credit: Space Force/SpaceX)

NASA astronaut Nick Hague will be the first Space Force Guardian to launch to the International Space Station.

Hague, who flew twice to space with the U.S. Air Force and NASA before being transferred to Space Force, was named to the SpaceX Crew-9 mission Wednesday (Jan. 31) for an expected International Space Station (ISS) launch in August.

NASA and the Department of Defense have been collaborating since the dawn of the space program. The first U.S. astronauts in 1959 were recruited from the military for the Mercury program, for example. Even today, about two-thirds of NASA astronauts have served in the U.S. Armed Forces, according to Space Force numbers.

Space Force, however, was only established in 2019 as the sixth U.S. military branch. Following his last ISS journey, Hague did a leadership rotation at the Pentagon with Space Force in 2019 as its director of test and evaluation. While still in that role, he transferred in 2021 from Air Force to Space Force.

Related: NASA names astronauts for SpaceX's Crew-9 mission to the ISS

Hague has been to space twice, although the first time was only for a few minutes. His initial ISS launch attempt on Oct. 11, 2018 aborted mid-flight due to a deformed sensor aboard his Russian Soyuz rocket, also carrying Roscosmos cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin. 

"This is not the first in-flight emergency that I've been a part of," Hague, who was unharmed from the emergency landing, told reporters a few days after the abort. As evidence, he pointed to his time with the U.S. Air Force as a test pilot and in combat. 

Russian engineers addressed the root cause of the rocket failure. Following a new Soyuz launch five months later with NASA astronaut Christina Koch, the trio reached the orbiting lab on March 15, 2019. Hague has accrued 203 days in space already.

Hague's Crew-9 crewmates include cosmonaut Aleksandr Gorbunov of the Roscosmos and two other NASA astronauts: Zena Cardman and Stephanie Wilson. Cardman and Gorbunov will be on their first spaceflight. Wilson spent 42 days in space across three orbital missions, most recently aboard space shuttle Discovery mission STS-131 in April 2010.

Crew-9 will be the ninth operational mission for SpaceX under NASA's commercial crew program and will spend about six months in space. The next ISS flight with SpaceX, Crew-8, is expected to launch to the ISS no earlier than Feb. 22, NASA also announced Wednesday.

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Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell (she/her), Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022 covering diversity, education and gaming as well. She was contributing writer for for 10 years before joining full-time. Elizabeth's reporting includes multiple exclusives with the White House and Office of the Vice-President of the United States, an exclusive conversation with aspiring space tourist (and NSYNC bassist) Lance Bass, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, flying parabolic, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, "Why Am I Taller?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and a Bachelor of History from Canada's Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science at several institutions since 2015; her experience includes developing and teaching an astronomy course at Canada's Algonquin College (with Indigenous content as well) to more than 1,000 students since 2020. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon: