Crew 1, SpaceX's first operational manned spacecraft took off on November 16. Its four occupants will spend six months aboard the International Space Station.
Three months after Demo 2
After a flight in automatic mode in March 2019 (Demo 1 mission) and a first flight with two astronauts on board last summer, between May 30 and August 14 (Demo 2 mission), SpaceX launched Crew 1 (or USCV 1) tonight to the International Space Station. This is the first operational flight of its Crew Dragon cabin, for the occasion named Resilience, which is part of the ISS permanent crew rotation. The launch took place at 12:27 a.m. UTC from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The Falcon 9 launcher used was brand new, and its first stage, the B1061, was successfully recovered from its flight off the coast on the autonomous barge Just Read The Instructions.
The cabin (C207), which carries four passengers for the first time, is also new. The cabin and second floor are scheduled to be returned to flight during the Crew 2 mission, scheduled for April 2021 (with Frenchman Thomas Pesquet on board).
While the Dragon Crew's entry into orbit and the recovery of the first stage of the launcher went smoothly, some minor malfunctions occurred after the second stage was separated, during the on-orbit configuration of the cabin to align with the station.
An increase in pressure in a pump initially caused an alarm. Then the thermal control system of the propellants of the SuperDraco engines of the vessel displayed non-nominal data. But the problems were solved by the ground control teams within two hours.
Seven passengers on board ISS
Three men and one woman make up the Resilience crew: Americans Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover, Shannon Walker, and Japan's Soichi Noguchi.
This is the third space flight for Soichi Noguchi, who is reportedly talking to Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa to participate in a private flight with artists around the Moon in 2023, aboard SpaceX's future giant Starship vehicle. This is the second flight for Michael Hopkins and Shannon Walker.
It is the first flight for Victor Glover, selected as an astronaut by NASA in 2013, who will become the first African-American to make a long-term stay around the Earth.
The quartet will join, 27 hours after its launch, the passengers of the Soyuz MS-17, installed on board the ISS since October 14: Russians Sergei Ryjikov and Sergei Koud-Svertchkov, and American Kathy Rubins.
The latter was able to vote from space for the American presidential election, as she had already done in 2016 during her first stay.
The seven astronauts will form Expedition 64, which will last six months.