NASA and SpaceX have announced a date for the first operational mission of the new Crew Dragon capsule to carry astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS). The launch is scheduled for October 23, 2020.
Secured atop a SpaceX Falcon 9, the mission will be launched from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The four-person crew consists of three NASA astronauts, Crew Dragon commander Michael Hopkins, pilot Victor Glover, and mission specialist Shannon Walker, in addition to one astronaut from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), mission specialist Soichi Noguchi
This follows the recent successful first crewed test flight of the Crew Dragon, which carried NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley to the ISS following a launch on May 30, 2020. After two months spent on the ISS checking the capsule and assisting the crew there with science experiments, Behnken and Hurley returned to Earth and the capsule splashed down safely on August 2, 2020. This mission was the first time that astronauts had been launched from U.S. soil since the ending of the Space Shuttle program in 2011.
With the Crew Dragon completing all of its testing, NASA now has its own way to carry astronauts to the ISS and will no longer have to rely on Russian Soyuz launches. However, Soyuz rockets will still be used for ISS operations as well.
Before the operational mission of the Crew Dragon, called Crew-1, a Soyuz MS-17 rocket will carry NASA astronaut Kate Rubins and Roscosmos astronauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov to the ISS to join the team of Expedition 63, after which current crew members, NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy and Roscosmos astronauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner, will return to Earth.
The Crew-1 members are already training for their mission and their capsule is being checked over as well. Once final tests are complete, the launch can be given the go-ahead and will be the first of regular runs to the ISS using the Crew Dragon.