NASA’s SpaceX Crew-2 Astronauts Headed to ISS
April 23, 2021
NASA’s SpaceX Crew-2 astronauts are in orbit
following their early morning launch bound for the International Space Station
for the second commercial crew rotation mission aboard the microgravity
laboratory. The international crew of astronauts lifted off at 5:49 a.m. EDT
Friday from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the
company's Crew Dragon spacecraft is launched on NASA’s SpaceX Crew-2 mission to
the International Space Station with NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan
McArthur, ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Thomas Pesquet, and Japan
Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Akihiko Hoshide onboard, Friday,
April 23, 2021, at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket propelled the Crew
Dragon spacecraft with NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur, along
with JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) astronaut Akihiko Hoshide and ESA
(European Space Agency) astronaut Thomas Pesquet, into orbit to begin a
six-month science mission on the space station.
During Crew Dragon’s flight, SpaceX will command the spacecraft from its mission
control center in Hawthorne, California, and NASA teams will monitor space
station operations throughout the flight from Mission Control Center at the
agency’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.
“It has been an incredible year for NASA and our Commercial Crew Program, with
three crewed launches to the space station since last May,” said NASA Acting
Administrator Steve Jurczyk. “This is another important milestone for NASA,
SpaceX, and our international partners at ESA and JAXA, and for the future of
scientific research on board the space station. It will be an exciting moment to
see our crews greet one another on station for our first crew handover under the
Commercial Crew Program.”
The Crew Dragon spacecraft, named Endeavour, will dock autonomously to the
forward port of the station’s Harmony module about 5:10 a.m. Saturday, April 24.
NASA Television, the NASA App, and the agency’s website are providing ongoing
live coverage through docking, hatch opening, and the ceremony to welcome the
crew aboard the orbital outpost.
“I’m really proud of the SpaceX team and honored to be partnered with NASA and
helping JAXA and ESA as well,” said Elon Musk, Chief Engineer at SpaceX. “We’re
thrilled to be a part of advancing human spaceflight and looking forward to
going beyond Earth orbit to the Moon and Mars and helping make humanity a
space-faring civilization and a multi-planet species one day.”
The Crew-2 mission is the second of six crewed missions NASA and SpaceX will fly
as part of the agency’s Commercial Crew Program.
This mission has several firsts,
First commercial crew mission to fly two international partners;
First commercial crew handover between
astronauts on the space station as Crew-1 and Crew-2 astronauts will spend about
five days together on station before Crew-1 returns to Earth;
First reuse of the Crew Dragon spacecraft
and Falcon 9 rocket on a crew mission –Crew Dragon Endeavour flew the historic
Demo-2 mission and the Falcon 9 flew astronauts on the Crew-1 mission; and,
First time two commercial crew spacecraft
will be docked to station at the same time.
“When I see a launch I immediately think of
what it took to reach this milestone and the dedication of all the people who
made it happen,” said Steve Stich, manager of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.
“There’s obviously a long way to go, but now we can celebrate the Crew-2 launch
and look forward to seeing them join their other Expedition 65 colleagues as we
prepare to bring Crew-1 home next week.”
Kimbrough, McArthur, Hoshide, and Pesquet will join the Expedition 65 crew of
Shannon Walker, Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover, and Mark Vande Hei of NASA, as
well as Soichi Noguchi of JAXA and Roscosmos cosmonauts Oleg Novitskiy and Pyotr
Dubrov. For a short time, the number of crew on the space station will increase
to 11 people until Crew-1 astronauts Walker, Hopkins, Glover, and Noguchi return
a few days later.
The is the second commercial crew mission to fly a JAXA astronaut. When Hoshide
joins astronaut Noguchi during the commercial crew handover period, it will mark
the first time two JAXA astronauts are on station at the same time.
“I am extremely honored to witness the successful launch today. It is my utmost
pleasure and also for Japan that Japanese astronauts Soichi Noguchi and Aki
Hoshide boarded the operational spacecraft of Crew Dragon twice in a row,” said
Hiroshi Sasaki, Vice President for Human Spaceflight and Space Exploration. “I
believe this is brought by the many years of close cooperation cultivated
amongst the international partners, especially between U.S. and Japan through
the ISS program. I hope Aki will play an integral role as the second Japanese
ISS commander along with his colleague astronauts, creating fruitful outcomes
and expanding the human frontier to the Lunar Gateway, the surface of the Moon
and even beyond.”
Crew-2 also is the first commercial crew mission to fly an ESA astronaut.
Pesquet is the first of three ESA crew members assigned to fly to station on
commercial crew spacecraft, kicking off a continuous stay of ESA astronauts on
the space station for about a year and a half – in total – for the first time in
more than 20 years.
"This is a thrilling time for human spaceflight and this new success of the
Commercial Crew Program embodies it – congratulations once again to NASA and
SpaceX,” said David Parker, director of human and robotic exploration at ESA.
“Starting with astronaut Thomas Pesquet, ESA is delighted to join this new space
station chapter, paving the way to the future of exploration side by side with
diverse partners. Six months of excellent science and state-of-the-art
technology demonstrations now await him, and we know he cannot wait to start
Shane Kimbrough is commander of the Crew Dragon spacecraft and the Crew-2
mission. Kimbrough is responsible for all phases of flight, from launch to
re-entry. He also will serve as an Expedition 65 flight engineer aboard the
station. Selected as a NASA astronaut in 2004, Kimbrough first launched aboard
space shuttle Endeavour for a visit to the station on the STS-126 mission in
2008, and then aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft for his first long-duration
mission for Expedition 49/50 in 2016. He has spent a total of 189 days in space
and performed six spacewalks. Kimbrough also is a retired U.S. Army colonel and
earned a bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering from the United States
Military Academy at West Point, New York, and a master’s degree in operations
research from the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta.
Megan McArthur is the pilot of the Crew Dragon spacecraft and second-in-command
for the mission. McArthur is responsible for spacecraft systems and performance.
She also will be a long-duration space station crew member, making her first
trip to the space station. Selected as an astronaut in 2000, McArthur launched
on space shuttle Atlantis as a mission specialist on STS-125, the final Hubble
Space Telescope servicing mission, in 2009. McArthur operated the shuttle’s
robotic arm over the course of the 12 days, 21 hours she spent in space,
capturing the telescope and moving crew members during the five spacewalks
needed to repair and upgrade it. She holds a bachelor’s degree in aerospace
engineering from the University of California, Los Angeles and a doctorate in
oceanography from the University of California, San Diego.
Akihiko Hoshide is a mission specialist for Crew-2. As a mission specialist, he
will work closely with the commander and pilot to monitor the spacecraft during
the dynamic launch and re-entry phases of flight. Once aboard the station,
Hoshide will become a flight engineer for Expedition 65. Hoshide joined the
National Space Development Agency of Japan (NASDA, currently JAXA) in 1992 and
was selected as an astronaut candidate in February 1999. Hoshide is a veteran of
two spaceflights. In June 2008, he flew to the International Space Station on
the STS-124 mission to deliver the Japanese Experiment Module "Kibo" to the
station. From July to November 2012, he stayed on the space station for 124 days
as a flight engineer for the Expedition 32/33 mission. The Crew Dragon will be
the third spacecraft that Noguchi has flown to the orbiting laboratory.
Thomas Pesquet also will be a mission specialist for Crew-2, working with the
commander and pilot to monitor the spacecraft during the dynamic launch and
re-entry phases of flight. Pesquet also will become a long-duration crew member
aboard the space station. He was selected as an astronaut candidate by ESA in
May 2009 and worked as a Eurocom, communicating with astronauts during
spaceflights from the mission control center. He previously flew as part of
Expeditions 50 and 51, launching aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft in October
2016 and spending 196 days in space, returning to Earth in June 2017. His
mission also included two spacewalks to maintain the station: one to replace
batteries on an electrical channel, and one to detect a cooling leak and service
the robotic arm.
The Crew-2 members will conduct science and maintenance during a six-month stay
aboard the orbiting laboratory and will return no earlier than Oct. 31. The Crew
Dragon spacecraft can stay in orbit for at least 210 days, which is a NASA
Adding more crew members aboard the microgravity laboratory increases the time
available for scientific activities. The November 2020 arrival of the Crew-1
astronauts more than doubled crew hours spent on scientific research and support
activities, and Crew-2 will continue the important investigations and technology
demonstrations that are preparing for future Artemis missions to the Moon,
helping us improve our understanding of Earth’s climate, and improving life on
our home planet. An important scientific focus on this expedition is continuing
a series of Tissue Chips in Space studies. Tissue chips are small models of
human organs containing multiple cell types that behave much the same as they do
in the body. Another important element of Crew-2’s mission is augmenting the
station’s solar power system by installing the first pair of six new ISS
Roll-out Solar Arrays.
Crew Dragon also is delivering almost 250 pounds of cargo, new science hardware,
and experiments, including a university student-led investigation to study
possible causes for suppressed immune response in microgravity.
During their stay on the orbiting laboratory, Crew-2 astronauts expect to see a
range of U.S. commercial spacecraft, including the Northrop Grumman Cygnus;
SpaceX cargo Dragon; Boeing CST-100 Starliner, on its uncrewed flight to
station; and NASA’s SpaceX Crew-3 Dragon; which is targeted for launch no
earlier than Oct. 23. During Crew-2, astronauts also will conduct a variety of
spacewalks outside the space station, including the solar array installation.
At the conclusion of the mission, the Crew-2 astronauts will board Crew Dragon,
which will then autonomously undock, depart the space station, and re-enter
Earth’s atmosphere. Crew Dragon also will return to Earth important and
time-sensitive research. NASA and SpaceX are capable of supporting seven
splashdown sites located off Florida's east coast and in the Gulf of Mexico.
Upon splashdown, the SpaceX recovery ship will pick up the crew and return to
Commercial Crew Program is delivering on its goal of safe, reliable, and
cost-effective transportation to and from the International Space Station from
the United States through partnership with American private industry. This
partnership is changing the arc of human spaceflight history by opening access
to low-Earth orbit and the International Space Station to more people, more
science, and more commercial opportunities.
The space station remains the springboard to NASA's next great leap in space
exploration, including future missions to the Moon and, eventually, to Mars. For
more than 20 years, humans have lived and worked continuously aboard the
International Space Station, advancing scientific knowledge and demonstrating
new technologies, making research breakthroughs not possible on Earth. As a
global endeavor, 243 people from 19 countries have visited the unique
microgravity laboratory that has hosted more than 3,000 research and educational
investigations from researchers in 108 countries and areas.