NASA targets April 20 to send next round of astronauts into space

NASA and SpaceX are aiming for no earlier than April 20 for the launch of the second crew rotation mission with astronauts into space. 

NASA’s SpaceX Crew-2 mission will launch four astronauts aboard a Crew Dragon spacecraft on a Falcon 9 rocket to the International Space Station. It will be the first mission to fly two international partner crew members as part of the agency’s Commercial Crew Program, according to NASA.

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Astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur will serve as spacecraft commander and pilot, respectively, for the mission. JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) astronaut Akihiko Hoshide and ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Thomas Pesquet will join as mission specialists. 

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The Crew-2 astronauts will stay aboard the International Space Station for about 6 months as expedition crew members, along with three crewmates who will launch via a Russian Soyuz spacecraft.

"The increase of the full space station crew complement to seven members – over the previous six – will allow NASA to effectively double the amount of science that can be conducted in space," NASA wrote in a press release last year. 

Crew-2 also is expected to arrive at the space station to overlap with the astronauts that flew to the station as part of the agency’s SpaceX Crew-1 mission.

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NASA astronauts Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover and Shannon Walker, along with JAXA astronaut Soichi Noguchi, are currently scheduled to return to earth in late April or early May. Crew-2 astronauts are set to return in fall 2021.

"NASA and SpaceX also continue preparations for the launch of the agency’s Crew-3 mission, which currently is targeted for fall of this year."