Astronauts Prepare To Launch To Space Station Aboard SpaceX Rocket

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Four astronauts are scheduled to head to the International Space Station aboard a SpaceX Dragon capsule.

NASA/Joel Kowsky/(NASA/Joel Kowsky)

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NASA/Joel Kowsky/(NASA/Joel Kowsky)

Splashdown! SpaceX And NASA Astronauts Make History

That flight was the first launch of American astronauts from American soil since the space shuttle program ended in 2011. Following the shuttle’s retirement, NASA spent the better part of a decade paying the Russian space agency for seats aboard its Soyuz rockets. It hopes the Dragon can end that dependence by providing an American-made system to get astronauts into low earth orbit. This mission, known as «Crew-1», is supposed to be the first of many routine flights that will ferry astronauts to and from the station.

Unlike the Soyuz, which has room for three crew members, the Dragon can carry up to seven passengers into orbit, according to the company. While the design fundamentally resembles older spacecraft like the Apollo capsules used to reach the moon, Dragon sports some modern upgrades such as a sleek white interior and touch-screen control panels.

The arrival of four astronauts to the station will bring the total crew to seven. Normally the ISS is staffed with anywhere from three to six crew members, and space will be tight. Hopkins said he will likely have to make due with the capsule as his bedroom for the duration of the mission.

The extra crew will help NASA to conduct more scientific research aboard the station, Hopkins said. «I think they’re going to keep us pretty busy.»

Liftoff is set for 7:27 p.m. and the flight to the station will take roughly 28 hours. Docking will occur Monday evening around 11 p.m. and will be televised by NASA TV.


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