SpaceX targeting April to launch 4 astronauts from 3 countries to space station

NASA targeting no earlier than April 20 for Kennedy Space Center launch

The members of the SpaceX Crew-2 mission to the International Space Station. Picture from left are NASA astronauts Megan McArthur and Shane Kimbrough, JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) astronaut Akihiko Hoshide and ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Thomas Pesquet. Credits: NASA (wkmg 2020)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. – Two American, one French and a Japanese astronaut will liftoff from Kennedy Space Center in April marking the third human spaceflight for SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft, NASA announced in a blog post.

The NASA, European Space Agency and Japanese Space Agency (JAXA) crew are slated to launch atop the Falcon 9 rocket from launchpad 39A no earlier than April 20 and travel to the International Space Station, where four other astronauts, who also arrived via SpaceX, will be waiting.

The mission known as Crew-2 will include NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur, JAXA astronaut Akihiko Hoshide and ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet.

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If the liftoff stays on track for late April, NASA astronauts Mike Hopkins, Victor Glover and Shannon Walker, along with JAXA astronaut Soichi Noguchi will be wrapping up their six-month stay on the orbiting laboratory after arriving in another Crew Dragon spacecraft in November.

Additionally there is another Russian Space Agency Soyuz launch slated for spring with three astronauts headed to the ISS, meaning at some point there could be 11 astronauts on station together at the same time.

The arrival of four astronauts will put a strain once again on the ISS sleeping arrangements. The space station is equipped with six sleeping quarters. When Hopkins and the rest of the Crew-1 team arrived, he opted to sleep in the Dragon spacecraft because there were currently seven astronauts on station.

There are several re-supply missions launching early this year that could bring some solutions to address the sleeping space issue but NASA has not released details of a plan for more astronaut bedrooms.

NASA said it’s targeting late April or early May for Crew-1 to return to Earth.

When Crew-2 arrives, they are scheduled for a long-duration stay in space returning sometime in the fall.

SpaceX and NASA are also targeting fall for the launch of the Crew-3 mission with four astronauts: two from NASA, one from ESA and another who has yet to be determined.