The rocket and spacecraft are slated to lift off this morning at 5.49 a.m. ET. This will mark only the third crewed flight for Elon Musk’s space company, and the first from SpaceX to make use of a previously flown rocket booster and spacecraft.
After enjoying time at the beach Thursday and getting some sleep, the crew was at Florida’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) to suit up shortly after midnight. They then enjoyed handpicked playlists — one of which included tunes by Ozzy Osbourne, Foo Fighters and Metallica — inside the Teslas that drove them to the launch pad before they were whisked up the launch tower, and accessed the spacecraft via aerial walkway.
The astronauts have spent hours being strapped into the capsule by a team of SpaceX helpers, and running through a series of communications and safety checks. The crew briefly kept themselves entertained during the checks by playing rounds of rock-paper-scissors, a superstitious tradition that all astronauts that launch out of KSC observe before flight.
Barring a weather or technical delay, they will take off at 5.49 p.m., and the Falcon 9 rocket will propel the spacecraft to more than 17,000 miles per hour before separating.
SpaceX will attempt to land the first-stage rocket booter on a seafaring platform so that it can be used yet again on a later mission. The Crew Dragon capsule will continue on in orbit, and the crew will spend nearly a full day aboard the spacecraft as it slowly maneuvers toward the two-decade-old International Space Station, which orbits about 250 miles above ground.
The Crew Dragon is expected to dock with the ISS around 5.10 a.m. ET Saturday.
Kimbrough, McArthur, Pesquet, and Hoshide will join seven astronauts already on board the station, four of whom arrived on a
NASA has spent more than a decade working to boost staffing aboard the 21-year-old space station after the retirement of its Space Shuttle program in 2011 left Russia’s Soyuz spacecraft as the only option for getting astronauts to and from the ISS. The United States had been paying Russia as much as $90 million per seat for those trips.
For years, SpaceX worked under a $2.6 billion fixed-price contract to develop its Crew Dragon spacecraft under NASA’s Commercial Crew program, which for the first time in space agency history handed over the task of building and testing a crew-worthy spacecraft to the private sector. SpaceX made history last May with the first crewed launch of a Crew Dragon on a mission called Demo-2, which carried NASA astronauts Douglas Hurley and Robert Behnken to the ISS for a four-month stay. A second crewed SpaceX mission took off in November.
McArthur is a Space Shuttle veteran and is married to Behnken, who co-piloted the historic Demo-2 mission last May. McArthur told reporters over the weekend that she was able to get “years of experience” with the Crew Dragon vehicle as Behnken worked alongside SpaceX during the Crew Dragon development process.
“I had several years, really, of learning from him along the way,” McArthur, who will pilot the Crew-2 mission and holds a doctorate in oceanography, said.
McArthur will be joined by NASA’s Kimbrough, a retired Army colonel and a veteran of two previous ISS missions. Their crewmates, Japan’s Hoshide and France’s Pesquet, both have prior spaceflight experience as well.
Pesquet said he appreciated the chance to fly aboard the refurbished rocket booster that helps lift the capsule into the void. The weathered hardware still covered in soot from their prior flights, allowed him and his crew mates to “draw our initials” on the side of the vehicle.
“I don’t know if [the writing] is gonna stick, but I’ve found it really cool,” he said.