NASA has announced that the SpaceX Crew-1 mission will be launched from the Kennedy Space Center’s Pad 39A no earlier than October 23. In addition to NASA astronauts Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover, and Shannon Walker, the mission will carry the first JAXA astronaut to catch a Crew Dragon to the International Space Station, Soichi Noguchi.
In an August 14 NASA press release, the agency revealed that the expected launch date had been selected to accommodate the arrival of the Soyuz MS-17 spacecraft. The Russian spacecraft is expected to be launched on October 14 with a crew of three and will attempt a new two-orbit rendezvous that will enable it to arrive at the station in just three hours.
Despite setting a launch date, NASA and SpaceX are yet to complete critical data reviews of the Crew Dragon’s Demo-2 mission. The mission was the first to carry a crew aboard a Crew Dragon spacecraft and was completed successfully with the safe return of Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley on August 2.
Once these critical data reviews are complete, the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft will be certified for operational flight. This will allow NASA to regularly fly astronauts to the space station, a capability the agency lost almost a decade ago with the retirement of the Space Shuttle. It will also end the United States reliance on Russia for its access to the space station.
Following the launch of the Crew-1 mission, NASA is targeting March 2021 for the launch of the second operational mission of the Crew Dragon spacecraft, Crew-2. The mission will carry NASA astronauts Robert Kimbrough and Megan McArthur, JAXA astronaut Akihiko Hoshide, and ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet.