Multinational SpaceX mission Crew-5 docks with space station • The Register

SpaceX has dropped another four astronauts to the International Space Station, whose Dragon capsule just successfully docked with the orbiting laboratory.

Since launching yesterday on a Falcon 9 rocket, the manned capsule has spent some time in orbit performing a series of automated maneuvers overseen by SpaceX’s Mission Control Center in Hawthorne, California, which aligned it with the ISS. The vehicle docked under its own power instead of being docked by the station’s robotic arm.

NASA astronauts Nicole Aunapu Mann (America’s first Native American in space) and Josh Cassada have since returned to the international station for a six-month stay, along with Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Koichi Wakata and Roscosmos cosmonaut Anna Kikina boarded.

At the station, the new recording — dubbed Crew-5 — will conduct more than 200 experiments and technical demonstrations, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said, covering topics such as cardiovascular health, bioprinting and fluid behavior in microgravity. NASA said the experiments would both benefit life on Earth and “prepare human exploration beyond low-Earth orbit.”

“Missions like Crew-5 are proof that we live in a golden era of commercial space exploration. It’s a new era, fueled by the spirit of partnership, fueled by scientific ingenuity and inspired by the quest for new discoveries,” said Nelson.

While Mann, Cassada and Kikina all flew into space yesterday, the launch marked the fifth spaceflight for Wakata, whose journey in a reusable SpaceX Dragon capsule makes him the second Japanese astronaut to join the elite astronaut club to three flown into space in various spaceships.

Noguchi Soichi, who flew to the ISS as SpaceX’s Crew-1, received the honor in 2020 when he became the first Japanese astronaut, the first non-American astronaut and the fourth overall to join the exclusive club.

Wakata not only received the fifth set of wings from three different ships on the planet, but also set a Japanese record with yesterday’s launch by becoming the first Jaxanaut to embark on its fifth space mission.

Kikina’s flight in Dragon marks the first time a Russian cosmonaut has flown in a SpaceX plane, while NASA said mission commander Mann, a US Marine Corps colonel and former F/A-18 Hornet and Super Hornet test pilot, the first was Native American in space with yesterday’s launch.

The launch was preceded by delays caused by damage to the Falcon 9 rocket used at launch during transit, necessitating repair and replacement of some components of the rocket’s interstage connector.

As SpaceX continues to ferry astronauts into space, Boeing is now planning for its first heavily delayed crewed flight in early 2023. ® Multinational SpaceX mission Crew-5 docks with space station • The Register

Rick Schindler

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