They’ve only gone and bloody done it – yawn – again! NASA, SpaceX send four to ISS

First certified commercial crewed spaceflight flies, but fuel heaters are acting up


NASA and SpaceX are celebrating the successful launch of the first non-experimental commercial crewed launch.

At 19:27 EST a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket hoisted a Crew Dragon capsule named “Resilience” into space, along with astronauts Mike Hopkins, Victor Glover, Shannon Walker and Soichi Noguchi. The International Space Station is their intended destination.

The mission was a milestone because the first crewed SpaceX launch, in May 2020, was officially a demonstration flight. NASA has since certified SpaceX as a commercial spacecraft operator, making it the first company to achieve such certification. NASA and Elon Musk’s space biz have seven more missions planned and expect Dragon capsules will be a continuous feature in orbit for the next 15 months.

That ambitious schedule was one reason for the launch’s 24-hour delay: a planned Saturday launch was scrubbed in part because SpaceX’s drone ship could not get into position to recover the Falcon, which SpaceX intends to re-use.

Almost everything went perfectly on today’s launch. Crew Dragon capsule’s hatch didn’t close perfectly on the first attempt, but astroboffins got it closed. Once in orbit, heaters that warm the capsule’s fuel did not behave.

At the time of writing, per the Tweet above, NASA and SpaceX were troubleshooting the situation. No mention was made of any decision to alter the mission plan, which envisages arrival at the ISS in around 24 hours.

The four astronauts on today’s launch will join the ISS’ three current residents and become part of Expedition 64 which is due to run until April 2021.

Among the experiments on this Expedition are:

  • Growing a crop of radishes, which are genetically similar to previous crops cultivated in space;
  • BioAsteroid, an investigation of how microbes interact with rocks in low gravity, to help us understand if regolith on other worlds could be used as soil;
  • Testing how heart cells behave in microgravity, to better understand cardiovascular risk factors in space;
  • Tests hoped to inform the develop of cancer therapies.

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