SpaceX launches third crew
SpaceX launched four astronauts toward orbit 23 April 2021 using a recycled rocket and capsule, the third crew flight in less than a year for Elon Musk's rapidly expanding company. The astronauts from the US, Japan and France should reach the International Space Station early 24 April 2021 morning, following a 23-hour ride in the same Dragon capsule used by SpaceX's debut crew last May. They'll spend six months at the orbiting lab.
- It was the first time SpaceX reused a capsule and rocket to launch astronauts for NASA, after years of proving the capability on station supply runs. The rocket was used last November on the company's second astronaut flight.
- For this automated flight, SpaceX replaced some valves and thermal shielding, and installed new parachutes on the capsule, named Endeavour after NASA's retired space shuttle. Otherwise, the spacecraft is the same vehicle that flew before.
- Out of the four astronauts, two are from NASA and two are from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and the European Space Agency (ESA).
- In May 2020, NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 test flight lifted off for the ISS carrying astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley.
- The aim of this test flight was to see if SpaceX capsules could be used on a regular basis to ferry astronauts to and from the ISS.
- Demo-2 was followed by the Crew-1 mission in November, which was the first of six crewed missions between NASA and SpaceX marking the beginning of a new era for space travel.
What will Crew-2 do at the ISS?
- Starting mid-November 2020, Crew-1 team members joined members of Expedition 64 and conducted microgravity studies at the ISS.
- Some of the research that the crew carried with themselves included materials to investigate food physiology meant to study the effects of dietary improvements on immune function and the gut microbiome and how those improvements can help crews adapt to spaceflight.
- Now, Crew-2 astronauts will join the members of Expedition 65, NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei and cosmonauts Oleg Novitskiy and Pyotr Dubrov of Roscosmos. They will stay aboard the ISS for six months during which time they will conduct science experiments in low-Earth orbit.