Multi-National Crew-2 Gears Up for 20 April Launch to Space Station

Crew-2 astronauts (from left) Thomas Pesquet, Megan McArthur, Shane Kimbrough and Aki Hoshide will launch aboard Dragon Endeavour no sooner than 20 April. Photo Credit: NASA/Twitter

NASA and SpaceX are targeting no sooner than 20 April for the launch of Crew-2 astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur of NASA, Aki Hoshide of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and Thomas Pesquet of the European Space Agency (ESA) to the International Space Station (ISS). With rotating crews of four expected to be lofted to the station twice annually by the Commercial Crew Program partners—SpaceX’s Crew Dragon and Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner—and rotating crews of three flying twice annually aboard Russia’s venerable Soyuz, this is expected to continue a permanent, year-round presence of seven people aboard the sprawling orbital outpost.

Megan McArthur and Shane Kimbrough train for their tasks as commander and pilot of Crew-2. Photo Credit: NASA

The all-veteran Crew-2 team was assembled by NASA last July, with all but McArthur—who previously flew on the STS-125 Hubble Space Telescope (HST) servicing mission in May 2009—having visited the ISS before. Until last summer, McArthur was deputy chief of NASA’s astronaut corps (a position she has since handed over to fellow astronaut Scott Tingle) and will serve as pilot on Crew-2.

Commanding the mission is seasoned ISS resident and spacewalker Shane Kimbrough, who logged almost 189 cumulative days in space and 39 hours of Extravehicular Activity (EVA) aboard shuttle Endeavour in November 2008 and on Expeditions 49/50 from October 2016 through April 2017. Prior to his Crew-2 assignment, Kimbrough was assigned to the Vehicle Integration and Test Office (VITO) and served as crew recovery chief for last summer’s successful oceanic return the Demo-2 mission and Dragon Endeavour astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken.

NASA astronaut Megan McArthur takes part in a crew equipment interface test inside the SpaceX Dragon capsule. Photo Credit: SpaceX

And Dragon Endeavour looms large for Crew-2 as well, for this mission is expected to fly the same ship as was flown on “Bob and Doug’s Excellent Adventure”, marking the first reuse of a crewed orbital-class space vehicle since the twilight of the Space Shuttle era. Moreover, with McArthur and Behnken one of only a handful of married couples within the astronaut office, as Crew-2 pilot she will occupy the selfsame seat aboard Dragon Endeavour that he did for the historic Demo-2 mission last year.

Flanking Kimbrough and McArthur aboard Dragon Endeavour will be Hoshide and Pesquet, both of whom have flown in space. Hoshide was a mission specialist on STS-124 in May 2008, which delivered his nation’s Kibo lab to the space station, before serving four months on Expeditions 32/34 in July-November 2012. All told, he accrued over 140 cumulative days in space and more than 23 hours of EVA time.

Shane Kimbrough (left) and Thomas Pesquet previously flew together aboard the ISS on Expedition 50 and performed two spacewalks together. Photo Credit: NASA/Twitter/Thomas Pesquet

Having served a tenure as chief of JAXA’s astronaut corps, he was named to his third flight in March 2018, with an expectation that he would become only the second Japanese citizen to command the ISS on Expedition 65. However, with a fluid flight manifest in recent years, Russian cosmonaut Oleg Novitsky—due to launch aboard Soyuz MS-18 in April—will now command Expedition 65.

The final member of Crew-2 is the most flight-seasoned of them all. French ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet recorded more than 196 days in space and 12.5 hours of EVA time during his Expedition 50/51 increment between November 2016 and June 2017. Interestingly, Pesquet and Kimbrough have previously spacewalked together, not once, but twice, in both January and March of 2017, during their time aboard the station.

Aki Hoshide prepares for Extravehicular Activity (EVA) training in the waters of the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory (NBL), near the Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston, Texas. Photo Credit: Aki Hoshide/Twitter

As well as marking the return to flight of Dragon Endeavour—which logged 64 days in space during Demo-2 and is gearing up for a full six-month ISS stay this second time around—Crew-2 are expected to ride the B1061 Falcon 9 booster core, which first saw service to launch Crew-1 astronauts Mike Hopkins, Victor Glover, Shannon Walker and Soichi Noguchi to orbit last November. It will mark the first occasion that humans have ridden to orbit aboard a previously-flown Falcon 9. In fact, no sooner had B1061 returned smoothly to the deck of the Autonomous Spaceport Drone Ship (ASDS), Pesquet took directly to Twitter. “Thank you,” he tweeted. “It’s now our booster!”

With a 20 April launch of Crew-2, Dragon Endeavour will dock at the International Docking Adapter (IDA)-2 port on the forward side of the station’s Harmony node. “Likely a docking the next day,” NASA’s Rob Navias told AmericaSpace. This port will have been only recently vacated by the second uncrewed test flight of Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner, which is currently aiming for a 25 March launch and approximately week-long voyage to the ISS.

Video Credit: AmericaSpace

Upon arrival, Kimbrough, McArthur, Hoshide and Pesquet will be welcomed aboard the station by the incumbent Expedition 65 crew, which includes the outgoing Crew-1 team. With the three-person Soyuz MS-18 team having arrived earlier in April, this will temporarily bump the ISS population up to 11 members.

Current expectations are for Hopkins, Glover, Walker and Noguchi to depart “in late April or early May”, wrapping up an increment of around 5.5 months. They will return to an oceanic splashdown aboard their ship, Dragon Resilience.

The Crew-2 emblem, designed by the four astronauts. Image Credit: Shane Kimbrough/Twitter

During Crew-2’s stay aboard the station, the quartet and their Soyuz MS-18 partners are expected to welcome two SpaceX Dragon cargo vehicles in May and September, a single Russian Progress and Northrop Grumman Corp.’s NG-16 Cygnus, both in July, and the Crewed Flight Test (CFT) of the CST-100 Starliner, possibly in mid-June, carrying Commander Barry “Butch” Wilmore, Pilot Nicole Mann and Joint Operations Commander (JOC) Mike Fincke.

At least one U.S. spacewalk is planned to begin the ISS Roll-Out Solar Array (iROSA) upgrades to the station’s Electrical Power System (EPS) and perhaps as many as five Russian EVAs to tend to multiple tasks, including the outfitting and activation of the new Nauka (“Science”) lab, due to arrive this summer.

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