First Ever Commercial Spacecraft And Crew Set To Launch In November

Launch marks first NASA/SpaceX Collaboration & first-ever U.S. commercially-owned rocket to International Space Station

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Falcon 9 at Vandenberg. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. SpaceX
Falcon 9 at Vandenberg. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

NASA has delayed the Crew-1 launch until early to mid-November due to issues with the Falcon 9 rocket’s gas generators. Once planned to launch on October 31, it would have coincided with the 20th anniversary of the first ISS crew launch. 

In their recent press release, NASA’s reason for the delay was to provide additional time for SpaceX to finish hardware testing and data reviews of Falcon 9’s first stage engine gas generators. Its performance was observed to be “off-nominal” during a recent launch attempt. This isn’t the first time this launch has been delayed—the initial launch date of October 23 was scrubbed due to timing conflicts between the Crew-1 launch and the arrival from upcoming Soyuz launch and landing operations

This launch will be the first collaboration between NASA and SpaceX and the first-ever commercially owned U.S. rocket to the International Space Station (ISS). The now November launch will also be the second time SpaceX, owned by Elon Musk, has launched astronauts into space. 

The launch of the Crew Dragon spacecraft, which the Crew-1 named Resilience, has brought a renewed interest both in space exploration and the commercialization of the space tourism industry. Outside of NASA and the newly created federal Space Force agency, advancements in the space industry have largely fallen to private companies. SpaceX is one of a growing number of commercial American aerospace companies. Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin, led by billionaires Richard Branson and Elon Musk respectively, are the other two companies in addition to SpaceX that are involved in what’s been dubbed the “Billionaire space race”. 

Continued partnerships with commercial space companies like SpaceX seem to be NASA’s future. This mission will be launched from Florida’s Cape Canaveral, home of many historic launches like the Apollo missions. But spaceports are currently being built across the country like Virgin Galactic’s Spaceport America (which began construction in 2010 and is still not an active space launch), and SpaceX’s future luxury spaceport resort in Texas (which is currently used as a rocket test and development site).

But spaceports are currently being built across the country like Virgin Galactic’s impressive Spaceport America (which purportedly required 400,000 feet of concrete joints), and SpaceX’s future spaceport resort in Texas. 

The Crew-1 launch’s flight crew still consists of U.S. astronaut Shannon Walker, Victor Glover, and Michael Hopkins, and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s astronaut Soichi Noguchi. This marks the first time an international crew member will fly a commercial spacecraft from the U.S. After their launch in November, the astronauts will spend six months aboard the ISS and will perform a variety of scientific experiments, spacewalks, and laying the groundwork for future Moon and Mars missions.