NASA targets October for next SpaceX Crew Dragon launch to space station
SpaceX’s next astronaut mission faces another launch delay.
The target launch date for SpaceX’s Crew-1 mission, its first fully operational crewed mission to space, has been pushed back from “no earlier than late September,” to “no earlier than Oct. 23, NASA announced in a statement today (Aug. 14).
The mission, which is set to launch SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft atop a Falcon 9 rocket from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, won’t lift off until at least late October “to accommodate spacecraft traffic for the upcoming Soyuz crew rotation and best meet the needs of the International Space Station,” NASA wrote in the statement.
Crew-1 will carry astronauts Shannon Walker, Victor Glover, Mike Hopkins and Soichi Noguchi to the International Space Station, and will mark the first regular service mission of the Dragon spacecraft following its certification at the conclusion of its development and testing program.
Crew Dragon’s final major milestone in that process was Demo-2, the mission launched on May 30 with astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley on board.
While Hurley and Behnken completed that mission with a successful return to Earth earlier this month, that was still technically part of the qualification process for Crew Dragon and for SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket, in order to certify it for human spaceflight so that it could begin regular mission operations — which kick off with Crew-1.
Building on a successful unpiloted test flight last year, the Demo 2 mission, carrying astronauts Douglas Hurley and Robert Behnken, went off without a hitch, launching on May 30 and docking at the space station the next day. After a two-month stay, the astronauts returned to Earth with splashdown in the Gulf of Mexico on August 2.
NASA managers initially targeted late September for the Crew 1 launch, but decided to move it after the Oct. 14 launch of two cosmonauts and a NASA astronaut aboard the Soyuz MS-17/63S spacecraft.
Commercial spaceflight milestones like the successful completion of Demo-2 and with Crew-1 will enable NASA “to regularly fly astronauts to the space station, ending sole reliance on Russia for space station access,” the agency stated today.