Live Updates: SpaceX Hours From Launch of Astronauts for NASA
The mission, known as Crew-2, is the third to carry people to the International Space Station. It was delayed by one day.,
For the third time, astronauts are set to hitch a ride on a private rocket to space.
The launch is scheduled for Friday at 5:49 a.m. Eastern time from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Both NASA and SpaceX are offering marathon live video coverage of the mission from the astronauts’ suiting up through the moment they launch. Or you can watch it in the video player above.
This is the latest mission for NASA by SpaceX, the rocket company started and run by Elon Musk. It will be carrying two American, one Japanese and one French astronaut to the International Space Station. That will be a continuation of a successful effort by the space agency to turn over to the private sector the business of taking people to low-Earth orbit.
SpaceX conducted a demonstration mission with two NASA astronauts, Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley, a year ago. The two men then splashed down in the Atlantic Ocean in August. They traveled in the same capsule, named Endeavour, that will fly on Friday.
Months later, SpaceX conducted what NASA called the first routine operational missions for the Crew Dragon spacecraft with four astronauts onboard. That mission, Crew-1, launched in November, and the astronauts are still aboard the station.
Now comes the second operational mission, known as Crew-2.
The Crew-2 launch had been set for Thursday morning, and weather at the launchpad was favorable. But mission managers had to also take into account conditions in the Atlantic Ocean where the Crew Dragon capsule would splash down if something went wrong during launch. There, NASA and SpaceX decided, the winds and waves were too high.
The weather report for Friday morning foresees a 95 percent chance of favorable conditions at the Kennedy Space Center. Conditions in the Atlantic are predicted to be better than on Thursday.
Should Friday’s launch be postponed, SpaceX can try again on Monday.
Hours before the launch, the astronauts start to get into their trademark SpaceX spacesuits with the help of technicians. They then bid farewell to their families and head out to the launchpad in Tesla Model X S.U.V.s. (A bit of cross-marketing between SpaceX and Tesla, both run by Mr. Musk.)
After they arrive at the launchpad, the astronauts board the capsule and spend hours working with mission control to confirm that its systems are ready for flight.
The launch is timed to when the space station’s orbit passes over Florida. When the capsule reaches orbit, it will be directly behind the space station but traveling faster in a lower orbit. That allows the Crew Dragon to catch up for docking at 5:10 a.m. on Saturday.
During their 23-some hours in flight, the astronauts will change out of their spacesuits, eat a meal or two, rest and provide updates to mission control.
Once the capsule docks with the station — an automated process — it then takes a couple of hours of checking to make sure there are no air leaks before the hatches open and the Crew-2 astronauts disembark.
The Crew-2 astronauts are to spend six months at the International Space Station.
Akihiko Hoshide of JAXA, the Japanese space agency. Mr. Hoshide, 52, has made two previous trips to space. He was a member of the crew of the space shuttle Discovery in 2008, and in 2012 he spent four months on the space station.
Shane Kimbrough of NASA. Mr. Kimbrough, 53, is the commander of Crew-2. He has made two previous trips to space, once on the space shuttle Endeavour in 2008 and then spending more than six months on the space station from October 2016 to April 2017.
K. Megan McArthur of NASA. Dr. McArthur, 49, flew on the space shuttle Atlantis in May 2009 on the last mission to refurbish and upgrade the Hubble Space Telescope. During that mission, Dr. McArthur, an oceanographer by training, operated the shuttle’s robotic arm to grab the telescope and place it in the cargo bay.
Dr. McArthur is married to Bob Behnken, one of the astronauts who traveled on the first astronaut flight of the same SpaceX capsule last year. She will sit in the seat he occupied during that flight.
Thomas Pesquet of the European Space Agency. Mr. Pesquet, 43, previously spent six months on the space station from November 2016 to June 2017, overlapping with Mr. Kimbrough for most of his stay. He is from France.
In the past, NASA led the design and operation of the vehicles for its astronauts, including the first Mercury capsules, the Apollo spacecraft that went to the moon and the space shuttles.
But that was expensive. And since the space shuttles stopped flying in 2011, NASA has had to pay Russia for pricey rides to orbit using the country’s Soyuz rockets.
NASA also selected a second company, Boeing, but Boeing’s offering, the CST-100 Starliner, suffered serious software glitches during an uncrewed test flight in December 2019. A redo of that uncrewed test is to occur later this year, and the first trip with astronauts may not occur until next year.
The Crew Dragon is a gumdrop-shaped capsule — an upgraded version of SpaceX’s original Dragon capsule, which was used to carry cargo to the space station. This particular capsule, named Endeavour, was used in the first demonstration trip with two astronauts aboard last May.
The spacecraft is roughly comparable in size to the Apollo capsule that took NASA astronauts to the moon in the 1960s and 1970s. SpaceX says the Crew Dragon can be configured with seating for seven people. But for the NASA trips, there will be just four astronauts at a time.
The four astronauts who launched to orbit in November during the Crew-1 mission are still at the space station. Those four astronauts and the Crew-1 capsule are scheduled to return to Earth on April 28.
The Crew Dragon is far more advanced than what NASA astronauts sat in 50 years ago and even sleeker than the space shuttles. Fancy touch screens replace the buttons and joysticks that were used in earlier spacecraft.
If you think you’re able to fly a Crew Dragon yourself, SpaceX provided a web version of the system that the NASA astronauts would use if they needed to override the spacecraft’s automated systems. Some YouTube users have helpfully explained how to actually complete the docking.