NASA and SpaceX set date for Crew Dragon's first routine ISS trip
The dust has barely settled on SpaceX’s history-making Demo-2 mission, in which a commercial spacecraft carried NASA astronauts to and from the International Space Station (ISS) for the first time, but already plans are underway for the vehicle's next outing. An October target date has been set for the next launch of the Crew Dragon spacecraft, which, if all goes to plan, will be the first of many routine SpaceX crew transportation missions to the orbiting laboratory.
Following years of development and testing of various aspects of the spacecraft, SpaceX’s Crew Dragon finally made its first crewed spaceflight in May this year. That Demo-2 mission carried NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley to the ISS, where they remained for a 62-day stay before safely returning to Earth earlier this month.
While this was the final hurdle for the demonstration phase of the Crew Dragon as a vehicle for manned spaceflight, NASA is still working to review the mission data and formally certify the spacecraft. Assuming there are no hiccups on that front, the Crew Dragon will take off again in late October as part of NASA’s Crew-1 mission, the first in a new era of spaceflight for the agency as it moves away from a reliance on Russian-built spacecraft.
NASA and SpaceX are targeting “no earlier than October 23” for what will become the first operational flight for the Crew Dragon. Set to climb aboard is commander Michael Hopkins, pilot Victor Glover, and mission specialist Shannon Walker, all of NASA, with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s mission specialist Soichi Noguchi to join them for a six-month science mission aboard the ISS.
All going well, this will mark the beginning of routine flights to and from the ISS for the Crew Dragon spacecraft. The flights are part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, which also involves the development of Boeing’s Starliner capsule, and was instigated to return manned spaceflight capabilities to the US for the first time since the Space Shuttle was retired in 2011.