American aerospace company SpaceX is expanding its wings in space. The company has started preparations to launch Crew-2 astronauts to the International Space Station. As per the plan, Elon Musk’s company will launch four astronauts to the revolving laboratory in April later this year. The company has proposed April 20 as the launch date. It will be the second crew rotation mission for NASA. Astronauts will fly to the ISS aboard a Crew Dragon spacecraft. It will be launched on SpaceX’s reusable Falcon 9 rocket. NASA said that it will be the first mission to fly two international partner crew members as part of its Commercial Crew Program. The program involves the Crew Dragon and the Boeing Starliner to shuttle astronauts to and from the ISS.
NASA shared more details about the launch of Crew-2 astronauts. It said that astronaut Megan McArthur will be the pilot and Shane Kimbrough will serve as commander. Japanese astronaut Akihiko Hoshide and ESA’s Thomas Pesquet will join the Crew-2 as mission specialists. As per the schedule, the rocket will lift off from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. The crew will stay at the ISS for a long period. The Crew-1 is scheduled to return in late April. Notably, the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft with four astronauts on board had arrived at the ISS in November last year. The four are NASA astronauts Victor Glover, Shannon Walker, Michael Hopkins, and Japan’s Soichi Noguchi.
The Crew-1 was the first of the six certified crew missions by NASA under the Commercial Crew Programme. SpaceX will fly astronauts to the ISS six times under this program. According to NASA, the Crew-2 will probably return in anytime in autumn of 2021. It said that the Crew-3 mission is targeted for autumn. The Crew-20 will conduct experiments and maintenance at the orbiting laboratory. In another related development, astronauts at ISS have made a breakthrough in space plant research. Astronauts have successfully made the first plant transplant in the ISS’ Vegetable Production System facility. The breakthrough is crucial as crop production in space can provide nutrients to astronauts during their long stay in space.