This Saturday three American astronauts and a Japanese astronaut will blast off to the International Space Station from Kennedy Space Center in Florida on a SpaceX rocket.
This will be the first fully-crewed SpaceX launch since the inaugural May 2020 SpaceX demonstration mission that sent astronauts Douglas Hurley and Robert Behnken to the International Space Station aboard a Crew Dragon capsule.
NASA is contracting with a private company to transport four astronauts to the ISS for a six-month stay. Saturday’s 7:49 p.m launch will mark the start of commercial spaceflight.
The goal is to have safe, reliable and cost-effective access to and from the International Space Station and to foster commercial access to other potential low-Earth orbit destinations.
“Today we are taking another big leap in this transformation in how we do human spaceflight. What we’re talking about here is the commercialization of space. NASA is one customer of many customers in a very robust commercial marketplace in low-Earth orbit,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said. “We’re transitioning from test flights to operational flights. Make no mistake, every flight is a test flight when it comes to space travel, but it’s also true that we need to routinely be able to go to the International Space Station.”
The Crew Dragon is scheduled to dock at the space station at 4:20 a.m. Sunday, Nov. 15.
SpaceX expects to launch seven Dragons over the next 14 months: three for crew and four for cargo.
NASA selected Boeing and SpaceX in September 2014 to transport crew to the International Space Station from the United States.
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 of months; the first one suffered so many software problems that the Starliner capsule failed to reach the space station.
Weather is favorable by the evening Saturday, although a 50% risk of showers is expected around the launch pad Saturday afternoon.