NASA and SpaceX are ready to launch the next space station crew into orbit

SpaceX

The private space company of Elon MuskSpaceX, planned to launch four astronauts over to the International Space Station for NASA on Wednesday, including a spacewalker veteran and two companions younger crew elected to join the upcoming lunar missions.

The SpaceX-built launch vehicle, consisting of a Crew Dragon capsule atop a two-stage Falcon 9 rocket, was scheduled to take off at about 9:00 p.m. local time (0200 GMT Thursday) from the Kennedy Space Center in the United States. NASA at Cape Canaveral, Florida.

If all goes well, the three American astronauts and their colleague from the European Space Agency (ESA) will arrive about 22 hours later and dock with the space station 400 kilometers above Earth to begin a six-month science mission aboard the orbiting laboratory.

Takeoff was originally scheduled for October 31, but was rescheduled several times due to bad weather. A delay was attributed to an unspecified medical problem with a crew member, the first postponement of a health-related launch for a NASA mission since 1990.

On Tuesday night, the crew, their spacecraft and ground launch crews were ready for liftoff and “the weather is good for launch,” NASA commercial crew manager Steve Stich told reporters during a pre-mission briefing.

All three NASA astronauts – Flight Commander Raja Chari, 44; mission pilot Tom Marshburn, 61, and specialist Kayla Barron, 34 – will be accompanied by German Matthias Maurer, 51, ESA specialist.

Chari, a US Air Force fighter and test pilot; Barron, a submarine officer and nuclear engineer for the Navy; and Maurer, a materials science engineer, will make their spaceflight debut aboard the Dragon vehicle, dubbed Endurance.

The three rookies will become humans number 599, 600 and 601 in space, according to SpaceX.