On October 5th, SpaceX will launch another passenger mission and make history in the process: This includes cosmonaut Anna Kikina, who will be the first Russian to fly on a private US spacecraft.
Crew-5, the latest commercial Crew mission, will launch no earlier than October 5 from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida and will dock with the International Space Station within the next 24 hours.
In addition to Kikina, the rocket will also carry two NASA astronauts, Nicole Mann and Josh Cassada, and JAXA astronaut Koichi Wakata (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency). The crew is destined for the International Space Station, where they will conduct experiments in microgravity. In April, Space.com reported that SpaceX’s Crew-4 astronaut mission flew to the ISS in less than 16 hours – their fastest run to date.
These astronauts will take off aboard the Crew Dragon on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket persistence Capsule. persistence was already deployed in November 2021 in a similar mission, Crew-3.
Following aerospace tradition, the commercial crew’s astronauts named their capsules Dragon. The name persistence was chosen by the crew 3 astronauts and has a double meaning.
According to US astronaut Raja Chari, they chose it to honor the perseverance of the NASA and SpaceX crews who built the capsule and made the flight possible. The name also comes from the ship used in Shackleton’s infamous Imperial Transantarctic Expedition in 1914.
WHAT WILL CREW-5 DO ON THE INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION?
NASA says it is preparing a variety of experiments for the crew to conduct in the ISS’s unique microgravity environment, including “printing human organs in space, understanding fuel systems working on the moon, and a better understanding of heart disease,” according to NASA.
“With Crew-5, we anticipate a mission of around five to six months. In general, we have about 250 to 300 experiments ahead of us for the crew,” Joel Montalbano, NASA ISS program manager, said at a news conference. NASA also says to keep an eye out for upcoming spacewalks.
SPACEX CREW-5 START DATE, TIME AND SCHEDULE
The Crew 5 mission is scheduled to start on October 5 at 12:00 p.m. at the earliest. Originally scheduled to launch in early September, it was pushed back to September 29 after the Falcon 9 booster was damaged. Hurricane Ian further delayed the launch to October 3, and now October 5 is the tentative launch date with October 7 as the backup date.
The Crew 5 launch vehicle will consist of a Crew Dragon capsule persistence on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. The Falcon 9 launches from Pad LC-39A at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. To see the spectacle for yourself, you can watch the launch either on NASA TV or on SpaceX’s website.
WHAT IS INTEGRATED CREW AND HOW DOES IT RELATE TO CREW-5?
With tensions between Russia and the United States at an all-time high over the war in Ukraine, it might seem like an odd time to launch the first cosmonaut on a commercial crew flight. But this move is part of NASA’s “integrated crew” strategy for the International Space Station.
On July 15, representatives of NASA and Roscosmos signed the long-awaited agreement on integrated crew in Moscow. This agreement allows Russian cosmonauts to fly to the ISS on Crew Dragon flights and American astronauts to fly on Soyuz launches each year.
NASA says the Dragon flights will provide safer access to the International Space Station. The agency would like more options to reach the International Space Station because it allows for individual sources of error. Notably, the signing of this agreement coincided with Vladimir Putin’s ousting of former Roscosmos head Dmitry Rogozin.
Rogozin was a longtime NASA antagonist known for his often erratic use of social media. And a month later, Russia announced that Roscosmos will leave the ISS after 2024. This move, when enacted, will mean that all future astronauts going to the space station will have to use other launch providers, including SpaceX.
Who are the crew members of Crew-5?
Crew-5 will bring 4 trained astronauts from the United States, Japan and Russia to the International Space Station.
The astronauts on board Crew-5 are:
- NASA astronaut Nicole Mann as spacecraft commander
- NASA astronaut Josh Cassada as pilot
- JAXA astronaut Koichi Wakata as mission specialist
- Roskosmos cosmonaut Anna Kikina as mission specialist
One of the two NASA astronauts, Nicole Mann, will be the spacecraft commander on the Crew 5 mission. As commander, Mann is responsible for the overall success of the mission and the safety of the crew.
Although this is Mann’s first trip into space, she has had an extensive career as a military pilot, having flown 25 different types of aircraft on 47 missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. This is the first time a commercial crew has had a female commander, and she is one of three women in the race to be the first woman on the moon.
The second NASA astronaut, Josh Cassada, will be the pilot of Crew-5. As the pilot, Cassada will maneuver the Dragon capsule to coordinate with the guidance systems. Like Mann, Cassada was in the military and served in 23 combat missions. Mann also studied physics as a graduate student at the University of Rochester and at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory.
JAXA astronaut Koichi Wakata is the only crew member to have ever been to space. Wakata has been on four Space Shuttle missions and one Soyuz mission, making this his fifth trip into space. As one of two mission specialists on Crew-5, Wakata will handle all sorts of tasks on the Dragon capsule.
According to NASA, mission specialists will “work closely with the commander and pilot to monitor the spacecraft during the dynamic launch and re-entry phase of the flight.” Wakata was also the first Japanese commander of the International Space Station in 2014.
Roscosmo’s cosmonaut Anna Kikina becomes Crew-5’s second mission specialist. Kikina is not only the first female cosmonaut to board a commercial crewed flight, but also the only active female cosmonaut in Roscosmos. Kikina will perform a similar set of tasks as Wakata on the Dragon capsule. Going forward, Kikina’s role in Crew-5 could open the door to future US-Russia cooperation in space.