SpaceX: Crew Dragon has a 'new car smell' reveals Cassidy

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SpaceX will launch four astronauts into orbit aboard the futuristic Dragon capsule next week. The launch is pencilled in to blast off from Cape Canaveral on Thursday, April 22. The mission, which has been dubbed Crew-2, marks SpaceX’s second operational flight of the Crew Dragon and the second time this particular capsule will fly with a crew.

The Crew Dragon earned its wings during an unmanned test flight – Demo-1 – in March 2019.

At the time, the capsule docked to the International Space Station (ISS) for six days, after which it returned to Earth.

More than a year-and-a-half later, the Crew Dragon blasted off into space with NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken.

The Demo-2 mission was deemed a resounding success, paving the way for SpaceX to begin regularly flying crews to the ISS.

Since the Space Shuttle’s retirement in 2011, NASA has relied on Russia’s Soyuz programme to put crew on the ISS.

SpaceX first operational flight – Crew-1 – took off on November 16, 2020, after multiple delays.

The crew included NASA astronauts Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover and Shannon Walker and Soichi Noguchi of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).

SpaceX will now launch the four astronauts of ISS Expeditions 65.

These include NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur, JAXA’s Akihiko Hoshide and Thomas Pesquet from the European Space Agency (ESA).

Weather permitting, liftoff is presently pencilled in for 6.11am.

SpaceX: Crew Dragon astronaut capsule docks to the ISS

You will be able to watch the launch live online here on Express.co.uk on the day, as well as on NASA’s and SpaceX’s websites.

The Dragon capsule will launch atop a reusable Falcon 9 rocket from the historic Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center – the same pad Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins launched from to the Moon.

The crew and capsule were cleared for flight a week ahead of launch by a NASA Flight Readiness Review.

Kathy Lueders, head of NASA’s human exploration office, said: “Looking back, it’s really amazing what both the SpaceX and NASA teams have accomplished.”

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Three members of the Expedition 65 crew have been to the ISS before and this will be their second jaunt on the orbital lab.

NASA astronaut Megan McArthur, however, has been to space once before on the last Hubble Space Telescope servicing mission in 2009.

The Crew Dragon capsule will also be returning to space after being used on the Demo-2 flight.

Astronauts Behnken and Hurley, who flew on the Space Shuttle Endeavour before it was retired, have named the capsule Endeavour.

The name Endeavour is also shared by the command module capsule of the Apollo 15 mission.

Just like SpaceX’s iconic Falcon 9 rocket, the Crew Dragon was built to be fully reusable.

After its first trip to space, the capsule was refurbished and fitted with some upgrades, including new valves, parachutes and thermal protection.

SpaceX said: “The Dragon spacecraft is capable of carrying up to seven passengers to and from Earth orbit, and beyond.

“It is the only spacecraft currently flying that is capable of returning significant amounts of cargo to Earth, and is the first private spacecraft to take humans to the space station.”

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