NASA and SpaceX have announced the date for the first operational mission of the Crew Dragon spacecraft, following a test flight to the International Space Station (ISS) earlier this year.
The mission, called Crew-1, is scheduled to lift off on a Falcon 9 rocket on Halloween, Saturday, October 31 from Cape Canaveral in Florida. On board will be NASA astronauts Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover, and Shannon Walker, along with Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi.
The spacecraft will dock a day after launching, on November 1, when the astronauts will enter the ISS and become part of its crew.
Speaking earlier this week, the Crew-1 astronauts talked about the upcoming mission – which had been pushed back from October 23 – and revealed a few interesting details, including the name for the spacecraft.
“The Crew-1 Dragon capsule, number 207, will henceforth be known by the call sign ‘Resilience,’” said Hopkins, the mission’s commander.
“If you look up the definition of the word ‘resilience,’ it means functioning well in times of stress or overcoming adverse events. I think all of us can agree that 2020 has certainly been a challenging year.”
On Saturday, May 30, SpaceX made history with its first astronaut launch, which returned crewed launches to American soil for the first time in nearly a decade, and became the first crewed commercial orbital launch to boot.
Astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley travelled to the ISS for a stay of about three months, returning to Earth in early August.
The splashdown was marred somewhat, however, by private boats sidling up to the landing site, causing issues for the recovery team and potentially endangering the crew. So this time around, rules around splashdown will be more strict.
“We’ve worked with the Coast Guard to have additional assets in place to make sure that doesn’t happen again,” said Steve Stich, NASA’s commercial crew program manager.
While Demo-2 included only two astronauts, Crew-1 includes a full complement of four astronauts (although Crew Dragon ultimately has space for seven).
These will feed into the crew rotation schedule on the ISS, officially forming the Expedition 64 crew, and will remain on the station until around April 2021.
“NASA’s SpaceX Crew-1 is the first crew rotation mission with four astronauts flying on a commercial spacecraft, and the first including an international partner,” NASA said in a statement.
“Operational, long duration commercial crew rotation missions will enable NASA to continue the important research and technology investigations taking place onboard the station.”
During their time on board, the crew will perform a number of experiments. Joining NASA astronaut Kate Rubins and Russian cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov, the crew will grow radishes in space, test drugs, and even install a new toilet.
The crew is also expected to welcome several spacecraft, most notably including Boeing’s delayed CST-100 Starliner spacecraft, also designed to carry humans like Crew Dragon. That will be an uncrewed test flight of the spacecraft some time later this year or early next year.
The American astronauts will even be able to vote in the US Presidential Election on board the space station. “All of us are planning on voting from space,” said Walker.
“NASA works very well with the different election organizations, because we’re all voting in different counties. But it was easiest for us just to say we were going to vote from space, so that’s what we’re going to do.”
All that’s left now is to finalize some reviews of the spacecraft ahead of the launch. Once those are complete, it’ll be all systems go for a spooky Halloween launch to the ISS.