For NASA, this has been marked to be the long-awaited beginning of a regular rotation of crews at the ISS (International Space Station), having the private companies providing for the lifts. The number of astronauts will be doubled earlier this year for the test flight, and the mission will have to last for six full months.
“Don’t make a mistake: Every single flight has been a test flight for traveling in space. Although it’s true that our going to the International Space Station has to be a routine,” said by Jim Bridenstine, NASA Administrator, in the welcoming of the astronauts to Kennedy.
This crew of one Japanese and three Americans have been scheduled to blast by the night of Saturday, and the info provided of the approaching Tropical Storm Eta says it will not interfere. It would be a fast trip to the ISS, an express six-orbit that lasts for under 9 hours, according to usnews.
The astronauts seemed to have named the Dragon capsule Resilience that was given for all the challenges within 2020: COVID-19 and social isolation, protests against injustice towards races, and quite a difficult campaign season and election. They came from quarantine for a week or two and have been taking some safety precautions – social distancing and masks – for a while before that.
“It has been a tough year for us and everybody else for a variety of reasons,” said by Mike Hopkins, the crew commander, after his flight from Houston. “We felt that if our vehicle’s name could give at least a bit of hope, inspiration, a smile on anyone’s face, then that has been what we have wanted to do.”
These four will have to remain in orbit until the season of spring until their replacements have arrived boarding on another SpaceX Dragon capsule. This capsule’s cargo version will have to keep making deliveries for food and supplies on a regular basis.
Benji Reed of SpaceX has stated that the company will be expecting to launch about 7 Dragons over the upcoming 14 months: a crew of three and cargo of four.
“There will have to be two Dragons within space as another Dragon launch begins,” said by the director of crew mission management, Reed.
The other taxi service NASA hired, Boeing, has not been expected to take flight at the first crew until the next season of summer. This company has been planning for a second test flight without a pilot a few months later; the first test flight has suffered with a lot of software problems that the capsule Starliner has failed in reaching the space station.
NASA has turned towards private companies for the deliveries to the space station – cargo, then crew – following the retirement of the shuttle fleet in the year of 2011. U.S. astronauts had kept on hitching rides on the rockets of Russia at a high price that just keep increasing. The previous Soyuz ticket had costed NASA $90 million.
SpaceX has finally ended the launch by NASA that lasted for nearly a decade-long for the astronauts last May, which successfully delivered the test pilots to the space station for a two-month stay from Kennedy. The capsule that returned has been scrutinized by SpaceX that followed the splashdown, which has resulted in a couple of changes for the second flight.
Engineers have discovered excessive erosion within the heat shield from the searing reentry of temperatures; the company had to shore up the vulnerable section for the next launch, said by the vice president of SpaceX, Hans Koenigsmann.
Improvements have been made to the system of altitude-measuring for the parachutes, after the chutes having opened a bit too low on the first flight for astronauts. Recently, the Falcon rocket had about two engines that have been replaced due to contamination coming from a red coating that has been used in the process. The swapping of engines had delayed the flight for about two weeks.
Maybe the biggest surprise coming from the first crew flight of SpaceX had to be the private boats that were full of gawkers which surrounded the capsule within the Gulf of Mexico followed by the splashdown in August. Koenigsmann had promised a larger keep-out area and more patrols for returns in the future.The second crew has one first-timer and three veteran fliers:
– Soichi Noguchi of the Japanese Space Agency, 55, a former resident of the station, will be the first person for decades to launch 3 types of rocket-ships; he already flew on a space shuttle of U.S. and Russian Soyuz.
– Shannon Walker, 55, a physicist born and raised in Houston, has lived on the space station before; Andrew, her retired astronaut husband, helped in building the outpost.
– Navy Cmdr. Victor Glover, 44, a pilot and the lone space rookie; coming from the area of Los Angeles and will become the first African-American astronaut moving to the space station for quite a long stay.
– Hopkins, 51, an colonel of the Air Force and another former resident of the space station; grew up at a cattle farm in Missouri.
The one American and two Russians that arrived last month at the space station from Kazakhstan will be joined by the upcoming crew.