Crew-1 Launch Now on October 31 — 20th Anniversary of the First ISS Crew

Crew-1 Launch Now on October 31 — 20th Anniversary of the First ISS Crew

NASA has decided to wait another week to launch SpaceX’s first operational Crew Dragon mission, Crew-1, to the International Space Station (ISS). Originally scheduled for October 23, it now will launch on October 31 at 2:40 am ET. October 31 not only is Halloween, but the 20th anniversary of the launch of the first ISS crew. The space station has been permanently occupied with international crews rotating on roughly 4-6 month schedules ever since.

ISS operations will be quite hectic over the next several weeks. A weather-related slip for the launch of the next cargo mission, NG-14, to October 1 made the schedule look like this:

  • launch of NG-14 on October 1 and arrival on October 4,
  • launch and arrival of the next ISS crew (Soyuz MS-17) on October 14,
  • departure of the current ISS crew (Soyuz MS-16) on October 21, and then
  • launch of Crew-1 on October 23 and arrival on October 24.

Pushing the Crew-1 launch to October 31 gives everyone more breathing room.

In NASA-speak, it will “deconflict the Crew-1 launch and arrival from upcoming Soyuz launch and landing operations” and “ensure closure of all open work, both on the ground and aboard the station, ahead of the Crew-1 arrival.”

NASA says it also will allow more time to search for the source of a small air leak. It poses no danger to the crew, but NASA and Roscosmos would like to find it. With only three people aboard at the moment, it is a convenient time to close off the U.S. and Russian segments to help in the search. For two weekends, NASA’s Chris Cassidy moved into the Russian segment with his two Russian crewmates, Anatoly Ivanshin and Ivan Vagner, so the U.S. segment could be isolated and tests conducted. The leak still has not been located. Delaying Crew-1 for another week will allow additional time when the three-person Soyuz MS-17 crew is there alone. It will be more difficult once the four-person Crew-1 contingent arrive.

Current ISS crew members, L–R: NASA’s Chris Cassidy and Roscosmos’s Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner

The Soyuz MS-17 crew — Kate Rubins from NASA and Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov from Roscosmos — are already at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan getting ready for their launch in just over two weeks. Roscosmos tweeted this photo of their arrival.

The Crew-1 crew and others will participate in a series of media briefings tomorrow (Tuesday) from Johnson Space Center. The four crewmembers — NASA’s Mike Hopkins, Vic Glover and Shannon Walker and JAXA’s Soichi Noguchi — will be there at 2:00 pm ET.

Crew of Crew-1, L-R: NASA astronauts Shannon Walker, Vic Glover and Mike Hopkins and JAXA astronaut Soichi Noguchi.

Crew-1 is the first operational flight of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon ISS crew transportation system and inaugurates a new era in ISS operations with NASA purchasing crew transportation services from a U.S. company, SpaceX, instead of Russia. A test flight, Demo-2, was successfully completed in August. Its launch on May 30 was the first time astronauts were launched from American soil since the space shuttle program was terminated in 2011.

The October 31 launch is exactly 20 years after the first ISS crew — NASA’s Bill Shepherd and Roscosmos’s Sergei Krikalev and Yuri Gidzenko — lifted off. They docked on November 2 and remained for 136 days.

Crew of the first mission to the ISS: Sergei Krikalev (Roscosmos), Bill Shepherd (NASA), Yuri Gidzenko (Roscosmos)

ISS was just three modules at the time — two built by Russia (Zarya and Zvezda) and one by the U.S. (Node 1, also called Unity).  Construction of ISS was not completed until 2010.

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