The SpaceX Crew Dragon is supposed to transport a team of four astronauts from Earth to the International Space Station on Thursday. But in a Space.com report, NASA placed the launch on hold for at least a day because of weather conditions.
Crew Dragon, SpaceX's spaceship, is the first and only commercial spacecraft to take astronauts into orbit. It's now part of NASA's human spaceflight program.
The space agency said on its website that it has contracted for a total of six Crew Dragon missions. Crew-1, the first, is already on the ISS. The mission, dubbed Crew-2, is the second of six crewed space-station missions NASA has contracted with SpaceX.
NASA's Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency's Akihiko Hoshide, and the European Space Agency's Thomas Pesquet are scheduled to board the Crew Dragon capsule early Friday morning. They are expected to launch into space at 5:49 a.m. ET.
The spacecraft must enter orbit, dock with the International Space Station (ISS), and remain for about six months while the astronauts work on the orbiting laboratory. Then it has to return them safely.
Astronauts to Be Strapped Into a Recycled Spaceship
Business Insider said the Crew-2 astronauts would climb to the top of the launch tower early Friday to board the Crew Dragon capsule Endeavour.
Endeavour is the same Crew Dragon capsule that flew the first commercial spaceflight last year. It carried NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley to the International Space Station on a demonstration mission. The capsule has since been redesigned and refurbished.
McArthur, like her husband, will fly via Endeavour on her mission.
"I'm going to launch in the same seat. So that is kind of a fun thing that we can share, you know, I can tease him and say, 'Hey, Can you hand over the keys? I'm ready now to go,'" McArthur recently said.
Crew Dragon to Orbit Earth and Dock to the ISS
After two in-depth evaluations of the spacecraft, spaceship, and launch preparations, NASA officials gave SpaceX the go-ahead to launch on Tuesday.
After slipping into space, the Crew Dragon will remain there for nearly 24 hours. The astronauts would most likely remove their spacesuits, eat, sleep a good night's sleep, eat breakfast, arrange their things, and then re-enter their spacesuits to prepare for their arrival at the International Space Station.
Although Crew-1 is still on board, another Business Insider report said the ISS will be crowded with 11 people for at least four days. Shannon Walker, Victor Glover, Mike Hopkins, and Soichi Noguchi, the astronauts, will board their own Crew Dragon capsule on April 28.
Resilience, their capsule, would then detach from the ISS, push toward Earth, and plunge through the atmosphere. The spaceship's parachutes could deploy, allowing it to drift to a splashdown off the coast of Florida.
In about six months, the Crew-2 astronauts will return in a similar way.
How to Watch
At 1:30 a.m. ET on Friday, NASA will begin live coverage of the Crew-2 launch as the astronauts don their SpaceX spacesuits. After saying their goodbyes to their families, the astronauts will travel to the launchpad in a pair of custom Teslas, climb the launch tower, and board Crew Dragon.
The rocket will be filled with cryogenically cooled propellant after the astronauts have been strapped in and the spaceship's hatch has been sealed shut. At 5:49 a.m. ET, if all goes well, it should thunder past the launchpad and into space.
NASA TV is broadcasting live coverage of the launch planning, countdown, and liftoff.
Check out more news and information on SpaceX on Science Times.