in 2023 August 26 SpaceX Falcon 9 liftoff with an international crew aboard the Dragon capsule. Image: Michael Cain/Spaceflight Now Late in the day, the SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule carrying the NASA commander, a Danish co-pilot, a Japanese astronaut and a Russian cosmonaut blasted into orbit early Saturday for a six-month mission to the International Space Station .
As Marine Corps helicopter tester Jasmin Moghbeli and European Space Agency astronaut Andreas Mogensen watched cockpit displays, the crewed Falcon 9 rocket roared to life at 3:27 a.m. EDT and lifted off majestically from historic Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center above 1.7 million people. attraction
Launching on a northeast trajectory that matched the space station’s trajectory, Falcon 9 smoothly accelerated as the nine first-stage engines consumed their fuel, creating a fiery nighttime spectacle for area residents and tourists.
Two and a half minutes after liftoff, the first stage was rejected for a successful landing at the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, while the second stage continued its ascent to orbit.
Nine minutes after liftoff, the second-stage engine shut down as planned, and three minutes later, the Crew Dragon spacecraft was launched into autonomous flight.
“Hello Crew-7,” SpaceX’s launch director radioed. “On behalf of the entire SpaceX launch and recovery team, I am honored to welcome the first international Dragon crew to orbit. Godspeed, Crew-7.
“Thank you for the trip, it was amazing! Moghbeli replied. “On behalf of Andy, Satoshi, (Konstantino) and I, we would like to thank the many people who have brought us to this unique moment. There may be four crew members on board from four different countries – Denmark, Japan, Russia and the USA – but we are a united team with a united mission. … Go Crew-7! Amazing ride!”
If all goes well, Moghbeli, Mogensen, Japanese astronaut surgeon Satoshi Furukawa and Russian cosmonaut Konstantin Borisov will catch up with the space station early Sunday, matching the lab’s 260-mile altitude and 17,000 mph speed.
Continuing its automated approach, Crew Dragon is expected to dock with the Harmony module’s space-facing port at 8:39 a.m., 29 hours after launch.
SpaceX has launched eight Crew Dragons to NASA’s space station, including one manned test flight and seven operational crew rotation missions, as well as two privately funded commercial flights with non-government astronauts.
NASA and SpaceX had planned to launch the Crew-7 mission early Friday, but the flight was cleared six hours before launch to resolve “open documents” needed to verify that the oxygen valve in Crew Dragon’s life support system is working properly. margin.
Another problem emerged in the final stages of Saturday’s countdown: sensor readings indicating a possible nitrogen tetroxide leak in the Crew Dragon’s propulsion system. Nitrogen tetroxide, known as NTO, is an extremely toxic rocket fuel, but with just minutes to go, SpaceX engineers concluded that the leak was so small that it posed no threat to the crew or the six-month mission.
At the station, Moghbeli and her crewmates will be met on board by Commander Sergei Prokopiev, Dmitry Petelin and NASA astronaut Frank Rubio, who flew to the lab on a Soyuz spacecraft nearly a year ago. Also on hand: Crew-6 commander Stephen Bowen, pilot Woody Hoburg, United Arab Emirates astronaut Sultan Alneyadi and cosmonaut Andrei Fedyaev.
Moghbeli and company replace Bowen and his Crew-6 colleagues. On March 2 last year, Bowen’s crew planned to leave the station after a five-day transfer and land off the coast of Florida the next day to end the six-month mission.
Hoburg had some advice for replacing Crew-7.
“They’re going to be very focused on launch, rendezvous, entry,” he said Wednesday from orbit. “And then when they get here, the terms change completely. We all feel like we want to go 100mph, use our training and be really effective right away. But there is a long way to go.
“We hope they’ll have some time to just relax, enjoy their powers, and get into the swing of life and work here on the space station.”
Two weeks after Crew-6’s departure, Russia plans to launch a Soyuz MS-24/70S spacecraft carrying cosmonauts Oleg Kononenko, Nikolai Chub and NASA’s Loral O’Hara to the space station. Ascension is expected on September 15.
Kononenko’s crew will replace Prokopyev, Petelin and Rubio, who plan to complete the marathon’s 371-day mission by landing in Kazakhstan on September 27. They originally planned to return home on March 21, but their Soyuz suffered a major coolant leak. leakage in December.
A replacement Soyuz was launched in February, but the crew’s stay on the station was extended by six months to allow Russian flights to return to a normal schedule. As a result, Rubio will set a new US single flight record, eclipsing astronaut Mark Vande Hei’s current mark of 355 days set on 9/11.
The late cosmonaut Valery Poliakov holds the world record for the longest spaceflight at 437 days, a mark achieved aboard the Russian space station Mir in 1994-1995. NASA astronaut Scott Kelly was the first American to spend nearly a year in space, followed by Vande Hei and now Rubio.
“Frank thought he would be here for six months when he went into space,” Hoburg said. “And during his mission, he found out that it had been extended to a year. He was wonderful to work with. Frank sacrifices a lot of time away from his family and I just want to acknowledge the service he has given us on the space station.
Kononenko and Chubb also plan to spend a full year on the International Space Station. Another Soyuz will blast off next March with veteran commander Oleg Novitsky, NASA’s Tracy Caldwell-Dyson and Belarusian researcher Marina Vasilevskaya.
Novitsky, Vasilevskaya and O’Hara will return to Earth in about 10 days. Kononenko, Chubb and Caldwell-Dyson will arrive together next September.