The hardware that will fly SpaceX’s next astronaut mission for NASA is poised and ready for liftoff.
The Crew-5 mission is scheduled to launch at noon EDT (1600 GMT) on Wednesday (Oct. 5) from Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida, and team members have been checking off boxes in the leadup.
On Saturday (Oct. 1), for example, the four Crew-5 astronauts — NASA’s Nicole Mann and Josh Cassada, Japan’s Koichi Wakata and Russian cosmonaut Anna Kikina — arrived at KSC from NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.
That same day, the Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon capsule that will fly Crew-5 were rolled out to Pad 39A from SpaceX‘s processing facility at KSC. The Falcon 9 is jarringly white and clean by SpaceX standards; Elon Musk’s company is famous for landing and reflying boosters, which get soot-blackened during their trips back to Earth. But Crew-5 will be the first mission for this particular Falcon 9 first stage.
On Sunday (Oct. 2), SpaceX performed a “static fire” test of the Falcon 9, lighting up the first stage’s nine Merlin engines briefly in a standard preflight trial. SpaceX, NASA and the Crew-5 astronauts also “completed a full rehearsal of launch day activities” on Sunday, SpaceX said via Twitter (opens in new tab).
Crew-5 will send Mann, Cassada, Wakata and Kikina to the International Space Station for a five-month stay. The mission will make history in multiple ways. For instance, Kikina will become the first cosmonaut ever to fly on a SpaceX mission to orbit. And Mann will become the first Native American woman to reach the final frontier.
NASA and SpaceX had been targeting today (Oct. 3) for Crew-5’s liftoff, but Hurricane Ian pushed things back by two days.
The storm’s impact on the timeline for NASA’s Artemis 1 moon mission was much more dramatic. NASA had been targeting Sept. 27 for the launch of Artemis 1, which will lift off from KSC’s Pad 39B. But the Artemis 1 team rolled Artemis 1 off the pad last week to protect it from Ian and is now eyeing a launch in mid-November.
Mike Wall is the author of “Out There (opens in new tab)” (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall (opens in new tab). Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom (opens in new tab) or on Facebook (opens in new tab).