SpaceX’s Crew-4 astronaut mission to the International Space Station is set to launch next weekend.
NASA and spacex Crews conducted a seven-hour flight readiness review for Crew-4 today (April 15) at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida. They found no major or concerning issues, so Crew-4 remains on track to launch on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from KSC’s Pad 39A at 5:26 a.m. EDT (0926 GTM) on April 23.
“Right now everything is looking good and we have a clear path to the April 23 launch opportunity,” said Jared Metter, director of flight reliability at SpaceX, during a call with reporters this afternoon.
Related: SpaceX’s Crew-4 Dragon capsule gets a name: Freedom
The flight readiness review was “very, very clean,” NASA chief of human spaceflight Kathy Lueders said during today’s call. The teams identified only a few minor items that should be resolved within the next 24 to 36 hours, she added.
For example, NASA and SpaceX still want to finish some work on the heat shield for Crew-4’s Dragon “Freedom” capsule, a new vehicle that has never flown before, said Steve Stich, manager of the agency’s Commercial Crew Program. .
The teams also want to make sure they have redundancy in the system that provides gaseous nitrogen to launch vehicles at KSC, Stich added. That desire may have been colored by the experience of NASA’s Artemis 1 team, which had some problems securing gas from a commercial vendor during the crucial “wet dress rehearsal” of the lunar mission at KSC’s Pad 39B earlier this month.
Crew-4 will send NASA astronauts Kjell Lindgren, Robert Hines and Jessica Watkins and Samantha Cristoforetti from the European Space Agency to the International Space Station for an extended stay.
The mission will launch during a very busy time for human spaceflight. As noted above, NASA has been conducting the Artemis 1 Wet dress rehearsal, a practice of important pre-launch procedures, including rocket fueling, at KSC.
The wet dress hasn’t gone quite as planned; the Artemis 1 team has made three attempts to fuel the core stage of the huge mission space launch system rocket, but had to cancel all of them to address various technical issues. NASA is currently weighing its next steps with the Artemis 1 wet dress, which could resume as early as next week.
SpaceX launched the private Ax-1 Mission to the space station on April 8. The four Ax-1 crew members are scheduled to leave the orbiting laboratory on April 19 and land on Earth a day later. And SpaceX’s Crew-3 mission, which has lived on the station since November, is scheduled to come home soon too.
NASA and SpaceX have yet to set an official splashdown date for Crew-3, but are targeting late April.
“We’ll work on the specific pending landing date, you know, a good launch and then good weather to land,” said Joel Montalbano, NASA’s ISS program manager, during today’s call.
“But we are planning a five-day handover between the two” missions, he added.
Mike Wall is the author of “out of thereme(Grand Central Publishing, 2018; Illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for extraterrestrial life. Follow him on Twitter @migueldwall. Follow us on twitter @Spacepointcom or in Facebook.