After sending four commercial flyers back from the International Space Station, SpaceX prepped a Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon capsule for launch early Wednesday to transport four professional astronauts to the lab complex for a four-and-a-half-month stay. At 3:52:55 a.m. EDT, the Kennedy Space Center’s pad 39A will be ready for liftoff, which is necessary for rendezvous missions since Earth’s rotation will carry the rocket into the plane of the station’s orbit.
There was a 90% likelihood of excellent weather predicted by the forecasters. In the wake of a successful Atlantic Ocean splashdown on Monday, NASA is preparing for its fourth operational commercial crew launch to the International Space Station. That mission, which was operated entirely by a private company, lasted 17 days. It was necessary for engineers to check Axiom-1 data before moving forward with NASA’s Crew-4 mission to ensure no technical concerns had arisen that may jeopardise subsequent missions.
After all, “it was a pretty clean mission overall,” said NASA’s Commercial Crew Program manager, Steve Stich. His staff has gone over a lot of information, according to him. “For example, they’ve looked into the thermal protection system, as well as a lot of the flight data. This flight’s parachutes were obviously spotless… We held a launch readiness assessment this morning, and the results were unanimous: “go.”
Crew-4 members Kjell Lindgren, Bob Hines, Jessica Watkins, and Samantha Cristoforetti of the European Space Agency will board the Falcon 9 just after 1 a.m. on Wednesday to begin the countdown to liftoff.
This is Hines and Watkins’ first time on a rocket. Each of Lindgren and Cristoforetti has flown on a Russian Soyuz spacecraft to the International Space Station before.
It’s a once-in-a-lifetime chance to go into space, Lindgren added. “Surreal that I’ll be able to do it again. I have a general idea of what to anticipate when the project goes live. I consider it an honor to take off from this historic launch pad at the Kennedy Space Center, where humankind has a long history of exploration.”
If the launch goes according to plan, the Crew Dragon will arrive at the space station around 8:15 p.m. on Wednesday and begin docking at the Harmony module’s space-facing port.
Before the Russian spacewalk scheduled for Thursday, the Crew Dragon rendezvous was scheduled for 16 hours and 22 minutes. Currently, the SpaceX spacecraft will dock when the three cosmonauts aboard the International Space Station are fast sleeping.
As a result, a customary welcome-aboard ritual for Crew-4 astronauts Oleg Artemyev, Denis Matveev, and Sergey Korsakov will be postponed several hours until after the cosmonauts wake up to begin their demanding workday.
Lindgren’s crew is taking over for Crew-3, which included Raja Chari, Thomas Marshburn, Kayla Barron, and Matthias Maurer, who launched to the ISS in November.
Preparation for their departure will include a briefing for the new crew members, a review of safety protocols, and an update on ongoing research. Chari and his crewmates are scheduled to return to Earth on Wednesday, after a 174-day mission in space. The astronauts of Crew-4 want to stay on board the station until the middle of September when a new crew of astronauts will be launched aboard a Crew Dragon.
Source: CBS News