On October 5 SpaceX will launch yet another passenger mission, making history in the process: It will include cosmonaut Anna Kikina, who will become the first Russian woman to take a ride on a private US spacecraft.
Crew-5, the newest commercial crew mission, will launch no earlier than Oct. 5 from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, docking with the International Space Station within the next 24 hours.
Along with Kikina, the rocket will also carry two NASA astronauts, Nicole Mann and Josh Cassada, along with JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) astronaut Koichi Wakata. The crew is destined for the International Space Station, where they will conduct experiments in microgravity. In April, Space.com reported that SpaceX’s Crew-4 astronaut mission arrived at the ISS in less than 16 hours – its fastest pass.
These astronauts will lift off on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket aboard the Crew Dragon Stamina capsule. Stamina used on a similar mission, Crew-3, in November 2021.
Keeping with aerospace tradition, the commercial crew astronauts named their capsules Dragon. Name Stamina it was chosen by the astronauts of Crew-3 and has a double meaning.
According to American astronaut Raja Chari, they chose it to honor the endurance of the NASA and SpaceX crews who built the capsule and facilitated the flight. The name also comes from the ship used in Shackleton’s infamous Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition in 1914.
WHAT WILL CREW-5 DO ON THE ISS?
NASA says it is preparing a variety of experiments for the crew to complete while in the unique microgravity environment that is the ISS, including “printing human organs in space, understanding fuel systems that work on the Moon, and better understanding heart disease,” according to NASA.
“With Crew-5, we’re looking at about a five- to six-month mission. Generally, we have about 250 to 300 experiments for the crew to do,” said Joel Montalbano, NASA’s ISS Program Manager, at a press conference. NASA also says to watch out for upcoming spacewalks.
SPACEX CREW-5 LAUNCH DATE, TIME AND SCHEDULE
The Crew-5 mission is scheduled to launch no earlier than October 5 at 12:00 p.m. Originally scheduled to launch in early September, it was pushed back to September 29 after the Falcon 9 booster was destroyed. Hurricane Ian further delayed the launch on October 3, and now October 5 is the tentative launch date, with October 7 as a backup date.
The Crew-5 launch vehicle will consist of a Crew Dragon capsule Stamina on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. The Falcon 9 launches from pad LC-39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. To see the spectacle for yourself, you can watch the launch on either NASA TV or the SpaceX website.
WHAT IS THE COMPLETE CREW AND WHAT DOES IT HAVE TO DO WITH CREW-5?
With tensions at an all-time high between Russia and the United States over the war in Ukraine, it may seem like an odd time to launch the first Cosmonaut on a commercial crewed flight. But the move is part of NASA’s “integrated crew” strategy for the International Space Station.
On July 15, NASA and Roscosmos officials signed the long-awaited Integrated Crew Agreement in Moscow. This agreement allows Russian cosmonauts to fly on Crew Dragon flights to the ISS and American astronauts to launch on Soyuz launches each year.
NASA says Dragon flights will allow safer access to the International Space Station. The agency wants more options to get to the International Space Station because it allows for single points of failure. In particular, the signing of this agreement coincided with the removal by Vladimir Putin of the previous head of Roscosmos, Dmitry Rogozin.
Rogozin was a longtime NASA competitor known for his often erratic use of social media. And a month later, Russia announced that Roscosmos will leave the ISS after 2024. This move, if implemented, will mean that all future astronauts going to the space station will have to use other launch providers, including of SpaceX.
Who are the crew members of Crew-5?
Crew-5 will carry 4 trained astronauts from the United States, Japan and Russia to the International Space Station.
The astronauts on Crew-5 are:
- NASA astronaut Nicole Mann as spaceship commander
- NASA astronaut Josh Cassada as pilot
- JAXA astronaut Koichi Wakata as mission specialist
- Roscosmos cosmonaut Anna Kikina as mission specialist
One of two NASA astronauts, Nicole Mann, will be the crew commander of the Crew-5 mission. As commander, Mann is responsible for the overall success of the mission and the safety of the crew.
Although this is Mann’s first trip to space, she has an extensive career as a military pilot, having flown 25 different types of aircraft on 47 missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. This is the first time a commercial crew has had a female commander, and she is one of three women in the running to be the first woman on the moon.
NASA’s second astronaut, Josh Cassada, will be the pilot of Crew-5. As pilot, Cassada will operate the Dragon capsule to coordinate with the guidance systems. Like Mann, Cassada was a military man and served in 23 combat missions. Mann also studied physics as a graduate student at the University of Rochester and Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory.
JAXA astronaut Koichi Wakata is the only crew member who has been in space before. Wakata has participated in four Space Shuttle missions and one Soyuz mission, making this his fifth trip to space. As one of two mission specialists in Crew-5, Wakata will be doing all kinds of tasks in the Dragon capsule.
According to NASA, mission specialists “will work closely with the commander and pilot to monitor the spacecraft during the dynamic launch and reentry phases of the flight.” Wakata was also the first Japanese commander of the International Space Station in 2014.
Roscosmos cosmonaut Anna Kikina will be Crew-5’s second special mission. Kikina is not only the first cosmonaut on a commercial crewed flight, but she is also the only active female cosmonaut in Roscosmos. Kikina will perform a similar set of tasks as Wakata in the Dragon capsule. Moving forward, Kikina’s role on Crew-5 could open the door for future US-Russian cooperation in space.