NASA’s next crewed mission is approaching launch date.
NASA and SpaceX are targeting mid-February for the launch of the next commercial crew mission to the International Space Station (ISS). A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket will carry a crew of four to orbit aboard the Crew Dragon Endeavor, where the spacecraft will rendezvous and dock with the ISS for approximately six months of research and station maintenance.
Crew-6 will be SpaceX’s tenth crewed flight, and the fourth for Dragon Endeavor, which also launched Demo-2, Crew-2, and Axiom Space’s Ax-1 mission.
Aboard Endeavor, a duo of NASA astronauts, Mission Commander Stephen Bowen and Pilot Woody Hoburg, will fly alongside United Arab Emirates (UAE) astronaut Sultan Al Neyadi and Roscosmos cosmonaut and mission specialist Andrey Fedyaev. For all but Bowen, who’s already flown three missions to the ISS aboard the space shuttle, Crew-6 will be this group’s first launch.
Bowen and Hoburg were both added to the Crew-6 manifest in December 2021. Fedyaev was added in July, 2022, as part of a crew swap agreement between NASA and Roscosmos, the Russian space agency. And on July 25, 2022, just ten days after the NASA/Roscosmos crew swap announcement, Al Neyadi was added as the final member of the Crew-6 list.
Al Neyadi’s addition was part of a 2021 contract between NASA and Axiom Space, in which a NASA astronaut would fly on a Soyuz mission to the ISS in exchange for a future seat for Axiom on a commercial US launch. Axiom Space partnered with the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Center of the UAE to fill that seat in April of last year, and Al Neyadi was selected, according to a NASA press release (opens in new tab) at the time.
A short overlap of space station personnel will take place as the members of Crew-6 get acclimated to their new orbital environment. Crew-6’s arrival will bring the ISS occupancy to eleven in the days leading up to the departure of Crew-5 and the Dragon Endurance spacecraft that flew them there.
The Crew-6 astronauts’ stay aboard the ISS is slated through the arrival of SpaceX’s Crew-7 mission, currently scheduled for sometime in the fall of 2023.