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NASA’s SpaceX Crew-1 crew members Shannon Walker, mission specialist; Victor Oliver, pilot; and Mike Hopkins, Crew Dragon commander; and Soichi Noguchi, mission specialist. (Photo credit: SpaceX)

APolitical

NASA, SpaceX set next astronaut launch for October

Three American astronauts and one Japanese astronaut will be on board.

Remember how much fun America had for a couple hours back in May when SpaceX and NASA launched the first astronauts from American soil in nearly nine years?

The next launch with astronauts — this one an official NASA mission, as opposed to a test flight — now is set for “no earlier than October 23,”  NASA announced Friday.

This time four astronauts — three Americans and one Japanese — are set to launch from Kennedy Space Center in a SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft atop a Falcon 9 rocket for a mission to the International Space Station

It will mark the first official private rocket company mission in NASA’s commercial crew program intended for regular astronaut rotation to and from the space station.

On May 30, Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken became the first astronauts to launch from Kennedy, or anywhere in America, since the space shuttle program ended with the final blastoff of the Space Shuttle Atlantis on July 8, 2011. Though Hurley and Behnken spent two months onboard the space station, that was considered a test mission. They returned August 2.

This time, the Crew Dragon will carry commander Michael Hopkins, pilot Victor Glover, and mission specialist Shannon Walker, all of NASA, along with Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency Mission Specialist Soichi Noguchi

They will be at the space station for a six-month science mission.

The exact date of the next launch from Launch Complex 39A is being coordinated to accommodate spacecraft traffic for the upcoming Soyuz crew rotation, and to best meet the needs of the International Space Station.

Meanwhile, NASA astronaut Kate Rubins and cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov of the Russian space agency Roscosmos will go up aboard a Soyuz MS-17 spacecraft. That spacecraft will carry back NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy and cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner from the space station.

The SpaceX Crew 1 launch timeframe also allows for a crew handover with NASA’s SpaceX Crew-2 mission next spring.

SpaceX is one of two American companies contracted by NASA to take over ferrying astronauts to the space station. Boeing, which is to launch from the adjacent Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, had a navigation malfunction with the December test launch of its CST-100 Starliner spacecraft. Its updated schedule for service has not yet been announced.

Written By

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at scott@floridapolitics.com.

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