Flight proven and showing how SpaceX’s hardware reusability can cost-effectively enhance the space program, April 23rd witnessed the SpaceX and NASA launch of the Dragon capsule via a Falcon 9 rocket for the Crew-2 mission.
The four person astronaut crew is en route to the International Space Station (ISS) within the Endeavour capsule (so named by astronauts Behnken and Doug Hurley for the Demo-2 mission last year), with the mission initially empowered via the Falcon 9’s, nine Merlin engines, first stage.
Following stage separation, Falcon 9’s first stage successfully landed on the “Of Course I Still Love You” droneship stationed in the Atlantic Ocean.
This is the first human spaceflight mission to fly astronauts on a flight-proven Falcon 9 and Dragon. The Falcon 9 first stage supporting this mission previously launched the Crew-1 mission in November 2020, and the Dragon spacecraft previously flew Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley to and from ISS during SpaceX’s Demo-2 mission in 2020.
NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur, Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Akihiko Hoshide, and European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Thomas Pesquet who comprised the astronaut members of the Crew-2 mission now navigate the Dragon capsule for the autonomous docking with ISS.
This is the first time Dragon is flying two international partners and is also the first time that two Crew Dragons are attached simultaneously to the orbiting laboratory.
After an approximate six-month stay, Dragon and the Crew-2 astronauts will depart from the space station no earlier than October 31 for return to Earth and splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Florida.