NASA, SpaceX to launch second commercial crew into space next month

National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) will once again join hands with SpaceX to launch Crew-2 to International Space Station (ISS) as part of the space agency’s Commercial Crew Program. With four astronauts on board Crew Dragon spacecraft, the lift-off is scheduled for April 20 from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The four-person crew includes astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur of NASA, Akihiko Hoshide of JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency), and ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Thomas Pesquet. They will stay at ISS for approximately six months before returning back to Earth.

Launch and docking

NASA says that attached to a Falcon 9 rocket, Crew Dragon will reach speeds of over 28,000 kmph putting it on an intercept course with the US space agency’s orbiting laboratory. Once the spacecraft is in orbit, it will be monitored by the crew and SpaceX mission control helping it guide to the space station. NASA says that the spacecraft will dock autonomously to the space station. The astronauts will also have the ability to switch to manual control to dock the spacecraft.

Objective of mission

During their stay at the space station, the crew will test the Butterfly IQ Ultrasound. As per NASA’s release, it is “a portable ultrasound device used in conjunction with a mobile computing device in the space environment”. In addition, they will conduct tissue engineering investigations including studies of bone, cardiovascular, muscle and liver health. Also, they will study the growth of cotton in microgravity to see whether these varieties require less water and more pesticide use.

The four astronauts will also see cargo spacecraft including the Northrop Grumman Cygnus and the SpaceX cargo Dragon. During their stay, they will conduct a series of spacewalks to install new solar arrays at the space station. This will help in an immense increase in the station’s total available power. It will go from 160 kilowatts to 215 kilowatts. The technological investigations on missions like these will also help in NASA’s Artemis program to put first woman and next man on the Moon.

Return to Earth

The Crew-2 is expected to return back to Earth sometime from September end to December this year. After undocking and re-entering the earth’s atmosphere it is likely to splashdown near Florida’s coast from where a SpaceX recovery vessel will bring it back to the land to return to Houston.

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