Astronauts head to launch site for SpaceX's 2nd crew flight
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — Four astronauts headed to Kennedy Space Center on Sunday for SpaceX’s second crew launch, coming up next weekend.
For NASA, it marks the long-awaited start of regular crew rotations at the International Space Station, with private companies providing the lifts. There will be double the number of astronauts as the test flight earlier this year, and their mission will last a full six months.
The crew of three Americans and one Japanese are scheduled to rocket away Saturday night. It will be a speedy trip to the space station, a six-orbit express lasting under nine hours.
The astronauts have named their Dragon capsule Resilience given all the challenges of 2020: coronavirus and social isolation, civil unrest and a particularly difficult election and campaign season. They have been in quarantine for a week and taking safety precautions — masks and social distancing — long before that.
The four will remain in orbit until spring, when their replacements arrive aboard another SpaceX Dragon capsule. The cargo version of the capsule also will keep making regular deliveries of food and supplies.
SpaceX’s Benji Reed said the company expects to launch seven Dragons over the next 14 months: three for crew and four for cargo.
“Every time there’s a Dragon launch, there will be two Dragons in space,” said Reed, director of crew mission management.
NASA's other hired taxi service, meanwhile, Boeing, isn’t expected to fly its first crew until next summer. The company plans a second unpiloted test flight in a couple months; the first one suffered so many software problems that the Starliner capsule failed to reach the space station.
NASA turned to private companies for space station deliveries — cargo, then crew — following the shuttle...