NASA and SpaceX are preparing to launch the next crew rotation mission to the International Space Station (ISS) no earlier than mid-February 2024. The Crew-8 mission will carry four astronauts to the orbiting laboratory for a six-month science expedition.
Crew-8 Astronauts Arrive at Kennedy Space Center for Final Training
The Crew-8 astronauts arrived at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on January 4th to complete final training and preparations ahead of their launch. The team is comprised of mission commander Stephen Bowen of NASA, pilot Woody Hoburg of NASA, and mission specialists UAE astronaut Sultan Alneyadi and Russian cosmonaut Andrey Fedyaev.
Over the next few weeks, the astronauts will review mission details, conduct simulations and rehearsals, inspect the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft, and complete a full launch dress rehearsal. This final on-site training ensures the crew is fully prepared to carry out their mission once in space.
Falcon 9 Rocket and Crew Dragon Undergoing Preparations
In parallel with crew arrival activities, teams at Kennedy Space Center are readying the Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon spacecraft for launch. Recent photos shared by SpaceX show a Falcon 9 first stage booster and Crew Dragon capsule being processed inside the company’s hangar ahead of integration with the launch tower.
Additional launch vehicle components, including a second stage and payload fairing, are also undergoing inspections and checkouts. Once fully assembled, the rocket and spacecraft will be transported to historic Launch Complex 39A for a series of critical preflight tests before liftoff.
Launch Targeted for No Earlier Than Mid-February
If all goes according to plan, Falcon 9 and Crew Dragon will lift off from Kennedy Space Center during an instantaneous launch window opening at 1:45 am EST on February 19th. The 4-hour trip to the space station will be fully autonomous but monitored closely by SpaceX and NASA teams.
Upon arrival, Crew-8 will be welcomed by the seven current ISS residents – the Crew-5 astronauts and a trio of Russian cosmonauts part of the Soyuz MS-22 crew. A weeklong handover will occur where knowledge and maintenance responsibilities are transferred to the new crew.
|Crew-8 Astronaut Team
|Veteran of 3 space shuttle flights
Sultan Alneyadi|Mission Specialist|UAE’s 2nd astronaut to launch|
|Andrey Fedyaev|Mission Specialist|Experienced Russian Cosmonaut|
The four Crew-8 members will become part of the Expedition 69 crew for the duration of their science expedition on the ISS. Their areas of research span technology demonstrations, physical sciences, human research and biological studies.
Key research focus areas include:
- Demonstrating robotic servicing techniques needed for sustaining deep space exploration.
- Investigating changes to immune function during six months exposure to microgravity, radiation and isolation.
- Growing plants without soil to advance crop production techniques on Earth and enable sustainable food supplements for future long duration space missions.
- Studying heart, brain, cartilage and bone changes during and after prolonged spaceflights.
Crew-8 Part of Regular Crew Rotations to Space Station
NASA’s SpaceX Crew-8 mission is the latest in a sequence of regular crew rotation flights to the ISS since SpaceX successfully launched its first astronaut flight in 2020.
The public-private partnership has enabled the continuous conduct of microgravity research aboard the orbiting laboratory to benefit life on Earth while advancing capabilities for human exploration at the Moon, Mars and beyond.
After a busy six months working aboard humanity’s high-tech orbital outpost, the Crew-8 astronauts will return home no earlier than August 2024. Their descent and splashdown off the coast of Florida will complete another successful Commercial Crew Program mission.
Upcoming Launch Broadcast Schedule
As launch day gets closer, NASA and SpaceX will provide coverage of key mission activities televised on NASA TV and online:
- Launch Readiness Review Briefing – TBD (February 2023)
- Astronaut Arrival at Kennedy Space Center – Completed January 4th
- Crew Dragon Hatch Closing and Departure to Launch Complex 39A – TBD (February 2023)
- Launch Broadcast Starts – February 19th at 12:15am EST
With Falcon 9 rocket integration underway and astronauts at Kennedy for final launch preps, the Crew-8 team is on the verge of commencing their half-year science expedition on the International Space Station. Stay tuned for updates on the mission timeline targeting liftoff next month!
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