The second operating SpaceX commercial crew flight to the International Space Station, transporting astronauts from Japan, Europe, and the United States, will be launched in the mid-April. NASA announced on January 29 that it had set a start date of April 20 for the station’s Crew-2 mission. NASA astronauts Megan McArthur and Shane Kimbrough, as well as Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency space-explorer Akihiko Hoshide and Thomas Pesquet of European Space Agency on board as mission experts will be the Commander as well as Pilot, respectively. The four would substitute the Crew-1 space-explorers who traveled on the first operating Crew Dragon flight to the station in November.
In late April or even early May, NASA astronauts Victor Glover, Michael Hopkins, and Shannon Walker, as well as the JAXA astronaut Soichi Noguchi would return to the spacecraft, predicting that Crew-2 will deploy on its current timeline. NASA previously reported a no-earlier-than-launch period of March 30 for the Crew-2. However, it did postpone the project to enable Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner commercial crew spacecraft to deploy uncrewed Orbital Flight Test 2 flight for an estimated one-week mission no sooner than March 25. The Starliner as well as Crew Dragon dock at one of the station’s two ports, including one that is used by Crew-1 Crew Dragon spacecraft.
A Soyuz spaceship, Soyuz MS-18, planned for launch about April 10, is also included in the pause to April 20. Three Russian cosmonauts will be taken to the station, with the Soyuz MS-17 returning to the Earth a week later, with the Russian cosmonauts Sergey Kud-Sverchkov and Sergey Ryzhikov on board, as well as NASA astronaut Kate Rubins. “We will really begin to increase our plans for doing some touring vehicle operations across the mid-March period,” Kenny Todd, NASA’s deputy manager of the International Space Station program, stated during a January 22 conference on a forthcoming series of the station spacewalks.
He didn’t provide a timetable for certain missions during the briefing. In a January 27 comment to SpaceNews, utilizing the NASA designation for the Soyuz MS-18, he stated, “We are still collaborating with our Russian colleagues as well as the Commercial Crew Program to solidify the schedules for the Crew-2 and Soyuz 64S flights.” “At present, both flights are targeted for spring 2021; however, specific launch schedules have yet to be confirmed.” The first in a sequence of spacewalks was conducted by two of the Crew-1 explorers; Hopkins and Glover, on January 27, operating on the exterior of Columbus module to aid the Bartolomeo external payload system mount a new contact antenna there.