Mission Feasible: SpaceX Launches Falcon 9 with Rebuilt First Stage and Crew Dragon

SpaceX and NASA launched crew of 4 to the International Space Station. The mission included astronauts from NASA – Shane Kimbrough and Megan MacArthur, from the Japanese space agency JAXA – Akihiko Hoshaid and the European Space Agency (ESA) – Thomas Peske. The mission is not quite ordinary – the restored first stage of the Falcon 9 and the also restored Crew Dragon ship, which has already been sent into space, fly into space. Historically flight will become the first to be piloted using rocket and spacecraft already in space.

This isn’t the first time SpaceX has sent humans to the ISS. This is the third such flight since the Demo-2 mission a year ago and Crew-1 in November 2020. The company seems to have achieved its main goal – to carry out full-cycle flights, reusing flying boosters and spent rocket stages.

The launch was supposed to take place under favorable weather conditions on Friday. In case of another worsening of the weather, it was going to be postponed again to Monday, April 27th.

Together with SpaceX, the spent stage and the spacecraft were checked by experts from NASA. After the Crew-1 flight, NASA representatives conducted a detailed check of the system and its components. The audit showed that all 9 Merlin engines do not need to be completely changed. However, turbine elements were replaced in two engines.

SpaceX received permission from NASA to use the spent systems when transporting astronauts to the ISS back in June 2020.

Flight plan

Before launching at the LC-39A launch pad at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the stage and rocket were vertically positioned. They have passed all the necessary checks.

Some preliminary flight plans are known:

  • The crew will be placed in the rocket 2 hours 45 minutes before the start of the flight.
  • 45 minutes before launch, after checking the status of all systems of the Falcon 9 rocket and the Crew Dragon, the flight director will start loading the fuel.
  • Approximately 9 minutes after takeoff, the rocket will enter orbit.
  • It will take almost 24 hours to reconcile its orbit with the ISS.
  • At 09:10 UTC on Saturday 25 April, the ships are scheduled to dock.
  • The new crew members will spend 4 days on board the station for acclimatization.

What’s next?

There will be 11 people on the ISS at the same time. The figure is impressive, but not a record – at its peak in 2009, there were 13 astronauts on the ISS. Then the crew flew to the ISS on the Endeavor shuttle.

On April 28, in case of good weather off the coast of Florida, 3 NASA astronauts will splash down – Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover and Shannon Walker and Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi. They spent a total of 164 days in space.

In 7.5 hours after undocking, the astronauts splash down off the coast of Florida.

The new crew will return from the ISS no earlier than October 31.

Space targets

On the ISS will be held scientific experiments. Including, the study of the behavior of human cells located in small systems that provide cells with life. Astronauts will study how they respond to stress, drugs, and genetic changes.

Why is everyone doing this in space? Microgravity provokes changes in the human body. Metamorphoses resemble age-related changes in cells on Earth. In space, you can see the whole picture and simulate a situation that would take years in earthly realities, but in space all processes go much faster.

Potentially new technology will help in the development of new drugs. If the development is successfully completed, astronauts will be able to take on flights a personalized device to track changes in the body.

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