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SpaceX, NASA ‘go’ to launch Crew-8 astronaut mission to ISS on March 1

SpaceX and NASA are officially go to launch their next astronaut mission to International Space Station (ISS) this week, with its four-person crew arriving at their Florida launch site on Sunday (Feb. 25).

Called Crew-8, the upcoming SpaceX mission will launch four astronauts into orbit on the Dragon capsule Endeavour and Falcon 9 rocket from Pad 39A of NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral. Liftoff is scheduled for March 1 at 12:04 a.m. EST (0504 GMT).

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“Even though we all go today, we’re constantly paying attention to what the rocket and spacecraft are telling us so that we’ll make sure that we launch when the crew and the spacecraft are ready to go, and we’re ready to have a good flight to the station and a good return,” Ken Bowersox, NASA’s associate administrator for space operations and a former astronaut, told reporters in a Sunday night teleconference.

SpaceX’s Crew-8 mission for NASA will launch NASA astronauts Matthew Dominick, Michael Barrett, Jeannette Epps and Russian cosmonaut Alexander Grebenkin on a six-month expedition to the ISS. They will relieve their Crew-7 predecessors, another four-astronaut team, who will return to Earth on a SpaceX Dragon a week after Crew-8 reaches the ISS.

Dominick will command the Crew-8 flight to the ISS with Barrett as pilot. Epps and Grekenkin are mission specialists. The mission is the first career spaceflight for all but Barrett on the Crew-8 team. NASA and SpaceX initially aimed to launch Crew-8 to the ISS on Feb. 22, but delayed it to March 1 to clear a path for a private moon launch on a SpaceX Falcon 9 from their same launch pad on Feb. 15.

Four Crew-8 astronauts in their blue NASA flight suits smile for a group photo after arriving at their launch site. (Image credit: SpaceX)

The Crew-8 astronauts arrived at the Kennedy Space Center on Sunday afternoon as they spend their final days on Earth ahead of launch. The quartet will perform a dress rehearsal for their launch overnight on Monday and Tuesday, with SpaceX expected to perform a so-called “hot-fire” test of the Falcon 9‘s first stage engines a day later.

Steve Stitch, NASA’s Commercial Crew Program manager, told reporters Sunday that NASA and SpaceX are working through some final issues to clear ahead of the Crew-8 launch. Those include reviews of composite material fasteners on the Dragon/Falcon 9 launch vehicle for Crew-8 that are expected to be resolved before flight. Engineers are also reviewing some paint discoloration on Crew-7’s Dragon capsule currently docked at the ISS, apparently due to residue tape on the capsule, to ensure it’s not an issue for reentry and landing.

Crew-8 will mark the fifth flight of the Crew Dragon capsule Endeavour, which first flew astronauts to the ISS in May 2020 on SpaceX’s first-ever human spaceflight, Demo-2. SpaceX and NASA are currently working to certify the reusable Dragon capsules for up to 15 spaceflights, NASA officials said.

SpaceX is one of two commercial companies with multi-billion-dollar contracts to fly astronauts to and from the ISS for NASA. The other company, Boeing, aims to launch the first crewed flight on its Starliner spacecraft no earlier than April 22.

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