A multinational crew from the United States, Japan, and Russia launched from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center at 12 p.m. EDT (1600 GMT) Wednesday in pursuit of the International Space Station. The four-person crew rode a SpaceX Dragon spacecraft to docking at the space station at 5:01 p.m. EDT (2101 GMT) Thursday to begin a five-month science expedition.
Cosmonaut Anna Kikina will become the first Russian crew member to launch on a U.S. spacecraft since 2002 when she straps into a seat aboard SpaceX’s Dragon Endurance capsule Wednesday for a flight to the International Space Station, opening a new chapter in the U.S.-Russian partnership in orbit that a senior Russian space agency official hopes can be extended past the current end date of 2024, despite souring relations on Earth.
SpaceX’s next astronaut launch for NASA, set for Wednesday from Kennedy Space Center, is one of three missions on the company’s schedule this week from launch pads in Florida and California. The crew mission will get top priority, a SpaceX official said, as managers watch downrange sea conditions and technicians try to resolve final technical issues before liftoff.
SpaceX teams and the four crew members set for blastoff this week to the International Space Station completed dress rehearsals Sunday at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, familiarizing the astronauts with their launch day checklist and testing out the Falcon 9 rocket that will carry them into orbit.
The multinational crew scheduled to ride a SpaceX rocket into orbit Wednesday arrived at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center Saturday as ground teams rolled their Falcon 9 booster and Dragon Endurance spacecraft to the launch pad, resuming work suspended earlier in the week as Hurricane Ian moved across Florida.
NASA astronauts Nicole Mann and Josh Cassada, Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata, and Russian cosmonaut Anna Kikina arrived at Kennedy Space Center on Saturday to begin the final few days of launch preparations before they depart on a five-month expedition on the International Space Station. The crew completed a a dress rehearsal Sunday, when they boarded the Dragon spacecraft on launch pad 39A to practice for launch day. SpaceX followed that with a test-firing of the Falcon 9’s main engines at 4 p.m. EDT (2000 GMT).
Ground teams at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan rolled a Soyuz rocket to its launch pad Sunday, moving a step closer to liftoff Wednesday with a team of two Russian cosmonauts and a NASA astronaut heading for the International Space Station, the first flight of a U.S. crew member on a Russian spacecraft since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The suborbital rocket developed by Jeff Bezos’s space company Blue Origin suffered its first launch failure Monday, when the main engine on the New Shepard booster appeared to cut out about a minute after liftoff from West Texas. The crew capsule, which carried NASA-funded experiments but no people, safely landed under parachutes after firing an abort motor to escape the stricken booster.