With Resilience, NASA & SpaceX begin operational Commercial Crew flights

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket lifted off from the Kennedy Space Center, Florida, at 19:27 EST… The post With Resilience, NASA & SpaceX begin operational Commercial Crew flights appeared first on NASASpaceFlight.com.

With Resilience, NASA & SpaceX begin operational Commercial Crew flights

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket lifted off from the Kennedy Space Center, Florida, at 19:27 EST on 15 November (00:27 UTC on 16 November) lofting four space travelers into orbit ahead of a planned six month stay aboard the International Space Station.

The launch of SpaceX’s Crew-1 mission marks the first operational Commercial Crew Program mission to the ISS, coming after years of hard work, ingenuity, testing and delays from NASA and SpaceX.

The flight marks the second crewed mission of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft following the historic Demo-2 test, which launched on 30 May of this year carrying NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Robert Behnken on a three month testflight to the Station.

Hurley and Behnken named their Crew Dragon spacecraft Endeavour after the space shuttle Endeavour which had taken them both on their first flights into space.  The astronauts assigned to Crew-1 likewise named their brand new Dragon capsule, opting for an until-now non space name: Resilience.

The name was chosen in honour of those who have suffered hardship and oppression in 2020 and to the enduring and resilient nature of humanity to persevere through difficult times.

Whilst Demo-2 — which marked the first-ever orbital crewed flight of a privately developed spacecraft and saw the first human orbital spaceflight to be launched from U.S. soil since STS-135, the final space shuttle mission in 2011 — was historic, Crew-1 also marks an extremely important milestone for the Commercial Crew Program.

When NASA started the Program in 2010, the ultimate goal was to provide NASA with privately developed spacecraft that would be capable of ferrying astronauts to the ISS for long-duration stays.

Resilience at the Kennedy Space Center. (Credit:NASA)

Crew-1 will mark the first American spaceflight to ferry astronauts to the ISS ahead of a long duration stay since STS-128, which delivered Expedition 20 Flight Engineer Nicole Stott to the Station for a three month stay aboard the laboratory in 2009.

The crew

NASA assigned the first half of Crew Dragon’s four person crew to the flight in August 2018, Commander Michael Hopkins and Pilot Victor Glover — both of whom were NASA astronauts.  NASA astronaut Shannon Walker and JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) astronaut Soichi Noguchi were added to the crew as mission specialists in March of this year.

Michael S. Hopkins (Colonel, U.S. Air Force)

Born Lebanon, Missouri, and raised on a farm outside of Richland Missouri, Mike received his Bachelor of Science in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Illinois in 1991 and his Master of Science in Aerospace Engineering from Stanford University in 1992.

He began his Air Force career when he was commissioned as a second Lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force in January of 1992.  By the spring of 1993, he was assigned to Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where he worked on advanced space technologies before finally attending flight test engineering at the United States Air Force Test Pilot School, Edwards Air Force Base, California. 

Crew-1 Commander, Michael Hopkins. (Credit: NASA)

In 1999, he served as an exchange officer with the Canadian Flight Test Center in Cold Lake, Alberta.  He later completed six months of language training at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California, before moving once again to Parma, Italy, in 2003 where he studied political science at Università degli Studi di Parma.

He returned home in 2005 and was assigned to the United States Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office at the Pentagon and served as a project engineer and program manager.  Three years later, he was selected as a special assistant to the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. 

In 2009, Mike was selected as part of NASA Astronaut Group 20 and just two years later was assigned to the crew of Expeditions 37/38.  He launched on the Soyuz TMA-10M mission on 25 September 2013.

During his first spaceflight, he spent 166 days on orbit and conducted two spacewalks for a combined time of 12 hours and 58 minutes.  He returned to Earth on 10 March 2014.  

He was selected for his second mission in August 2018 to Command the first operational mission to ISS aboard Crew Dragon.

He is married and has two sons.

Victor J. Glover, Jr. (Commandar, US Navy) 

Born 30 April 1976 and raised in Pomona, California, Victor received a Bachelor of Science in General Engineering from California Polytechnic State University in 1999 before attending Air University, Edwards Airforce Base, where he completed his Master of Science in Flight Test Engineering in 2007 and a Master of Science in Systems Engineering from the Naval Postgraduate School in 2009 before achieving his Master of Military Operational Art and Science, Air University in Montgomery, Alabama. 

Victor Glover, the day he was assigned to his first spaceflight. (Credit: NASA)

Victor began his flight training in Pensacola, Florida, and completed his advanced flight training in Kingsville, Texas — where he earned his wings of gold in December of 2001.  He has logged over 3,000 hours of flight in more than 40 different aircraft including the F/A‐18 Hornet, Super Hornet and EA‐18G Growler, and has completed 400 carrier arrested landings and 24 combat missions. 

During this time he was given the call sign ‘Ike” standing for “I Know Everything” 

Married with four children, Victor is the only first-time spaceflyer on the mission.

His spaceflight career began in 2013 when NASA selected him as a member of the 21st NASA astronaut class.  Two years later, he completed Astronaut Candidate Training, which involved extensive detail regarding operating ISS systems, spacewalks, robotics, T-38 training and land and sea survival training. 

In August 2018, he was selected as a Commercial Crew astronaut and assigned to the first operational flight of the SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule.

Victor will also be the first black person to launch into space since Al Drew on STS-133 in February 2011 and will become the first black person to perform a long-duration mission aboard the Station.

Dr. Shannon Walker

Born 4 June 1965 in Houston, Texas, Shannon earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Physics from Rice University in 1987 along with her Master of Science and a Doctorate of Philosophy in Space Physics from Rice University in 1992 and 1993, respectively.  She is married to fellow astronaut Andy Thomas.

NASA astronaut Shannon Walker. (Credit: NASA)

She began her career at the Rockwell Space Operations Company at the Johnson Space Center in 1987 as a Robotics Flight Controller for the Space Shuttle and would move on to become a Flight Controller at Mission Control for a number of Space Shuttle missions through the late 80s until 1994. 

A year later, she began working in the ISS Program at JSC, where she worked with Station partners in the design and construction of the robotics seen on Station today.  By 1999, Shannon moved to Moscow to work with Roscosmos supporting avionics integration for the ISS before returning home a year later.  

By 2004, she was selected as a member of the 19th NASA Astronaut class.  Before going to space, she commanded the NEEMO 15 undersea exploration mission and became an aquanaut.  Shannon also supported a number of missions as CAPCOM (Capsule Communicator) and was the lead Space Station CAPCOM for the STS-118 mission of Shuttle Endeavour to the outpost. 

She served as backup to Jeff Williams for his Expedition 21/22 flight and was later assigned to Expedition 24/25 as a Flight Engineer.

Dr. Walker launched aboard the Soyuz TMA-19A on 15 June 2010 and landed on 25 November that same year.  She was again assigned to Expeditions 59/60 but was replaced with well in advance of launch.

NASA then announced on 31 March 2020 they had assigned Shannon to the Crew-1 mission.  To date, she has logged 163 days in space. 

Dr. Soichi Noguchi

Born 15 April 1965 in Yokohama, Kanagawa, Japan, he is married with three children.  He earned Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Aeronautical Engineering from the University of Tokyo in 1989 and 1991 before earning a Doctorate of Philosophy in Advanced Interdisciplinary Studies in 2020.

Soichi Noguchi during Crew-1 mission training. (Credit: SpaceX)

In May 1996, he was selected as an astronaut candidate by the National Space Development Agency (NASDA, the predecessor of JAXA) of Japan, where he would complete two years of extensive training at NASA’s JSC before being qualified for Mission Specialist assignments aboard Shuttle while also participating in basic training at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Russia.

As the mission scheduled to follow the free-flying science flight of STS-107/Columbia, the mission took on new prominence and importance following the Columbia accident.

Soichi was one of four crew members on the mission to remain assigned to the flight in the 2.5 year stand down of Shuttle flight operations.  He launched on the STS-114 Return To Flight mission on the Shuttle Discovery on 26 July 2005.

During this flight, he conducted three spacewalks and became the first Japanese astronaut to do so on the ISS.  During one of his EVAs, he helped demonstrate the first on orbit repair techniques on the Shuttle’s Thermal Protection System.

Shortly after his return home, he was quickly assigned as backup ISS Flight Engineer for JAXA astronaut Koichi Wakata, who flew on Expeditions 18, 19 and 20 in 2008.  After that, Soichi was assigned to Expedition 22. 

On 21 December 2009, he became the first Japanese citizen to fly aboard the Soyuz spacecraft.  During his long-duration stay on orbit, the STS-131 Shuttle mission brought JAXA astronaut to space and to the Station, marking the first time two Japanese citizens were in space at the same time.

 

By November 2017, Soichi was again assigned to Expeditions 62/63 as a Flight Engineer.  It wasn’t until March 2020, however, when JAXA and NASA announced that his mission would be on the SpaceX Crew-1 flight.  

Soichi has spent over 177 days on orbit and has conducted three spacewalks with a total EVA time of 20 hours.

At liftoff of Crew-1, Soichi will become the first non-American and the first Japanese person to travel to space on three separate spacecraft: Shuttle, Soyuz, and Crew Dragon.

Only two other people in history have flown on as many spacecraft: Wally Schirra (Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo) and John Young (Gemini, Apollo, and Shuttle).

No person to date has traveled to space on four different spaceships.

The mission

The Falcon 9 rocket that lofted the four space travelers into orbit was rolled out to Launch Complex-39A (LC-39A) at the Kennedy Space Center on Monday, 9 November and successfully performed a static fire test, igniting its nine Merlin 1D engines on the pad for a few seconds on Thursday, 12 November.  This marked one of the final major hurdles ahead of launch.

The mission has seen several days in recent months, first from 23 October to 31 October to avoid any crossover with the departing Soyuz MS-16 spacecraft, which left the ISS on October 21.  Following an issue that occurred during a scrubbed Falcon 9 launch attempt on 2 October, the flight was delayed again to “mid-November” pending a review of the Falcon 9’s Merlin 1D engines.

Following an investigation, a fix to one engine, and a change-out of another engine on B1061, Crew-1 was given the launch date of 14 November, although this was pushed back to the 15th due to unfavorable weather forecasts in the Atlantic Ocean booster recovery area, where the booster is scheduled to make a powered landing on Just Read the Instructions, one of SpaceX’s two rocket catching drone ships.

Launch occurred 19:27:17 EST on 15 November, which was 00:27:17 UTC on November 16.

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  • Mike, Victor, Shannon and Soichi departed from the crew quarantine quarters at Kennedy, where they have been staying since their arrival in Florida on 8 November, in the hours before their scheduled departure from Earth.  Prior to this they spent their time getting suited up and making sure all of their life support systems are in working order.

    They made the short journey from the crew quarters to LC-39A, where their ride to orbit awaited, in custom Tesla Model X electric cars supplied by Tesla — another company owned by SpaceX CEO and founder Elon Musk.

    From there, the crew made their way up the elevator taking them to the top of the launch pad, where they walked across the crew access arm and climb aboard Resilience.

    At 19:27:14 EST, the nine Merlin 1D engines on booster B1061’s first stage ignited, three seconds after which the Falcon 9, Resilience, and her crew roared off Pad 39A ahead of their ride to orbit.

    Following the Falcon 9 first stage’s initial burn, it separated from the second stage and began its return to Earth.  Landing aboard Just Read the Instructions, it is scheduled to be reused to launch Crew-2, SpaceX’s second operational Commercial Crew mission which carries a current launch readiness date of 30 March 2021.

    Crew-1, wearing their custom SpaceX suits, board Tesla Model X’s bound for LC-39A during a dress rehearsal prior to their launch. (Credit:NASA)

    After staging, the second stage carried Resilience the rest of the way to orbit, following which the spacecraft separated — marking the end of its initial journey.

    Resilience was inserted into an initial 190 x 210 km orbit, after which a series of phasing and rendezvous burns will take place to bring the craft to the Station for a docking on Monday, 16 November at 23:00 EST (04:00 UTC on 17 November).

    After a short period to make sure it’s safe to open the hatches between the two vessels, Mike, Victor, Shannon and Soichi will enter their new home, joining Expedition 64 which started nearly a month ago with the undocking of Soyuz MS-16.

    Expedition 64 is commanded by Roscosmos cosmonaut Sergey Ryzhikov, with NASA astronaut Kathleen Rubins and Roscosmos cosmonaut Sergey Kud-Sverchkov acting as Flight Engineers.  Following their arrival on the Station, all four of the Crew-1 astronauts will also take up the position of Flight Engineer.

    Crew-1’s arrival at the Station will mark the beginning of seven-person crew operations aboard the ISS, taking over from six-person crews, the maximum amount possible when the three-person Soyuz was the soul spacecraft ferrying people to the ISS.  Since Crew Dragon has four seats, it is now possible for a seventh crew member to stay long-duration on the Station.

    The launch of Crew-1 marks the true beginning of the Commercial Crew Program and the culmination to years and years of hard work and resilience from SpaceX, NASA and all the many humans who have worked, and continue to work, on the program.

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