NASA Crew 2 Mission to Launch No Earlier than April 20: Press Conference

NASA held a press conference Monday related to the launch of the Crew 2 SpaceX mission, which will launch no earlier than April 20.

On hand for the press call were Kathy Lueders, Associate Administrator of the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate; Steve Stich manager of NASA Commercial Crew Program; Joel Montalbano NASA International space station manager, Benji Reed of SpaceX and Hiroshi Sasaki, of JAXA and David Parker of ESA.

“The International Space Station has become the space port we’ve wanted it to be,”  Lueders said. “I’m extremely proud of the international  partnership and she said the space station program “will lead us to do even more in our space exploration programs going forward.”

Montalbano said the Crew 2 mission will launch no earlier than April 20 he said. The Crew 2 astronauts are: Megan McArthur and Shane Kimbrough, JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) astronaut Akihiko Hoshide and ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Thomas Pesquet.

“We really want to get that flight in between the soyuz operation and the beta cutout in May.  We’ll return the Crew 1 vehicle in late April or early May. “This is an exciting flight for us,” he said. “We’re excited about this Crew Dragon which has enhanced capabilities over Crew 1. Stich said improvements are related to enhancing safety. 

Montalbano said: “Maximizing use of the Space Station is a priority” and that the Crew 2 mission was going to try hard to hit the April date. “We’re working in that direction,” he said.


NASA, JAXA and ESA representatives – NASA

The crew will stay approximately 6 months and deliver cargo that enhances science and utilization programs. 

But before that, there will be a port relocation of Crew 1 Dragon.

Crew 1 will move from forward port will move to zenith port. The crew gets into suits, does leak checks, gets hatches sealed, opens hooks on Crew 1 and backs away. It will then fly up and around and will dock to Zenith port. The process takes 45-50 minutes, Stich said. A few days ahead of time crew will do a run-through and system check. On the ground teams will be ready to try again 24 hours later and be prepared. It is the first time the port relocation has been done in the U.S. with the Dragon vehicles.

Montalbano said there have been accolades.

“Last year we celebrated 20 years of continuous human presence on space station,” Montalbano said. “Private industry allows us to bring more people and increase low earth orbit utilization.”

Montalbano praised SpaceX but also gave props to Boeing, Northrup Grumman and Sierra Nevada. 

Reed, meanwhile, said SpaceX is grateful to work with NASA.

“On behalf of SpaceX employees vendors and families thank you,” he said. “It’s a sacred honor to transport the crew.”

In addition to hard work, Reed said of flying humans: “It’s also been fun, it’s been fun preparing for this mission. It’s crazy to think here we are getitng ready for our third flight. Part of the fun is the crew. They’re happy and excited to go.”

To make room for the Crew 2, there will be a port relocation of Crew 1 at the end of the month. After Crew 2 gets up there to do a “handover” with Crew 1, Crew 1 will then return home.

Hiroshi Sasaki, Vice President and Director General for Human Spaceflight Technology Directorate, JAXA. “I hope japanese astronauts continue to play a role in space exploration,” he said. “I’m sure the Crew 2 mission is a symbol of international partnership.” 

David Parker director of human and robotic exploration for ESA said the Crew 2 partnership underscores parallel growth and great collaboration. “We’re entering the golden age of ISS utilization and great times of discovery in science and technology,” he said. Last week ESA launched a search for the next astronauts. 

“The passion and the commitment of everyone at ESA is propelling us into this new age of space exploration.”

Montalbano answered a question from social media: Where will astronauts sleep during the handover?

“Longterm we’ll have five sleeping stations,” Montlbano said. “During handover they plan pre-mission where everyone’s going to sleep. Short duration of five to seven days a “campout situation.”

Montalbano said the handover process has been done successfully before.

“Handovers are something we’ve done multiple times aboard the ISS,” Montalbano said. “First thing, they’ll review of emergency processes, That happens within the first days. It’s a 5- to 7-day process. Crew members will talk about projects and tasks.”