November 30, 2022

SpaceX’s Crew-5 astronaut mission arrives at the International Space Station

SpaceX’s Crew-5 astronaut mission arrives at the International Space Station
SpaceX’s Crew-5 astronaut mission arrives at the International Space StationSpaceX’s Crew-5 astronaut mission arrives at the International Space Station

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — SpaceX’s latest astronaut mission for NASA has reached its destination.

The Crew-5 mission launched yesterday (Oct. 5) from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, sending a Dragon capsule aloft atop a Falcon 9 rocket. That Dragon, named Endurance, caught up with the International Space Station (ISS) today (Oct. 6), after a 29-hour orbital chase.

Endurance made contact with the forward port of the station’s Harmony module at 5:01 p.m. EDT (2101 GMT), while the two spacecraft were flying over the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of West Africa. The docking operation was completed about 10 minutes later.

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The hatches between Endurance and the ISS are scheduled to open at 6:42 p.m. EDT (2242 GMT), after which the Crew-5 astronauts — NASA’s Nicole Mann and Josh Cassada, Japan’s Koichi Wakata and cosmonaut Anna Kikina — will move into the ISS for a five-month stay.

You can watch the hatch opening here at Space.com, courtesy of NASA TV, as well as an ISS welcome ceremony, which is slated to follow at 8:05 p.m. EDT (0005 GMT on Oct. 7).

The Crew-5 SpaceX Dragon Endurance approaches the International Space Station for docking on Oct. 6, 2022.

The Crew-5 SpaceX Dragon Endurance approaches the International Space Station for docking on Oct. 6, 2022. (Image credit: NASA TV)

Mann and Kikina have the honor of carrying personal mantles for this mission: Mann is the first Native American woman in space, and Kikina is the first cosmonaut to fly on a SpaceX Dragon. Both are spaceflight rookies, as is Cassada; Wakata has now been to space five times.

The Dragon Endurance also ferried SpaceX’s Crew-3 mission to the ISS and back. SpaceX operates a fleet of four Crew Dragon capsules, which are refurbished and tested before each reflight. Endurance flew with a combination of new and previously flown components, including a new heat shield, parachutes and nose cone. 

SpaceX is also well known for flying used rockets, but the Crew-5 liftoff featured a Falcon 9 with a brand-new first stage. The booster, painted with NASA’s worm logo, was bright white, free of the soot that’s a familiar sight on the company’s reflown first stages.

“We do like getting the new boosters,” Steve Stich, manager of NASA’s commercial crew program, said in a post-launch press conference yesterday. 

“Every time SpaceX puts a new booster in the fleet, they continue to make … safety improvements to the boosters,” Stich explained. “We like the reflown boosters, but … getting a new booster gets us some upgrades and some safety improvements, which we appreciate a massive amount.”

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The Crew-5 astronauts are joining seven crewmates already aboard the ISS, four of whom are members of SpaceX’s Crew-4 mission. Crew-5’s arrival begins the countdown for Crew-4’s departure from the station, which will happen in about a week, said Sarah Walker, director for Dragon mission management at SpaceX. 

The exact timing of Crew-4’s splashdown return off the coast of Florida is dependent on weather, Walker said during yesterday’s post-launch press conference. 

“So, we’ll continue to watch the weather,” she said. “The vehicle that is onboard supporting the Crew-4 mission is healthy, and we’ll just watch for those conditions to safely bring the crew home.”

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