SpaceX’s crew dragon is performing ‘beautifully’ on the ISS, as is NASA’s backup ride

SpaceX’s crew is making the Dragon astronaut taxi “beautifully” so far in its first operational, long-term investment on the International Space Station, said Kathy Luders, head of NASA’s human astronaut. Edge. A capsule called Resilience sent three NASA astronauts and a Japanese astronaut to the station last November, and a trivial housekeeping task is the only unexpected swing faced by the crew.

“We’re very happy with how things are going,” Ludders said in an interview. The crew joins Dragon ISS, where “the only small thing we had was that we got a few small bits of lint on the seal.” Astronauts have been floating inside and outside the spacecraft for months, leaving behind lint and dust.

The SpaceX Crew-1 mission was launched on November 15 by Commander Mike Hopkins, pilot Victor Glover and mission experts Shannon Vakerkar and Japanese astronaut Sochi Noguchi. The mission marked SpaceX’s first full-fledged operational mission under its NASA agreement, following the unveiling and return of two U.S. astronauts, Bob Behenken and Doug Hurley, after the tower hoisted its final test target last summer.

Some extra dust is certainly not the worst problem NASA and SpaceX face could face at the 100 100 billion orbital laboratory that has kept astronauts in Earth orbit for less than 20 years. “I can handle the issues of housekeeping,” Lloyders said. The astronauts are using a vacuum to cc all the lint out, but to fix the pipeline in the long run, a small cover was put on the station on the NG-15 cargo resilience mission, launched by Northrop Grumen on Saturday.

Humanized U.S. The longest period for the spacecraft – NASA and SpaceX crew in space are closely monitoring the dragon’s health, as it is ked days long with ISS. Perhaps the most intimately familiar with the capsule is Hopkins, who use the crew dragon as its bunker quarters while others sleep elsewhere at the station. (Luders makes it clear that Hopkins isn’t just to blame for all the dust – “Mike Hopkins, don’t get Joy in trouble!”)

SpaceX’s crew dragon “Resilience” spacecraft is seen docked on the International Space Station’s Harmony module.
Image: NASA / Johnson Space Center

SpaceX’s next mission, Crew-2, is scheduled for April 20, re-using the capsule that flew Behankan and Hurley for the DN-2 mission. Last year NASA decided to allow the reuse of its capsules for astronaut flights, setting the stage for a rigorous innovation and certification process for SpaceX. It’s the same thing that will go with Boeing’s Starliner, Crew Dragon’s rival capsule, which is still in development.

That renovation process will take place in Florida, where the company used its old cargo dragon vehicles for renovations. Luders said SpaceX engineers call their Kennedy Space Center renovation facilities “Dragonland.” SpaceX has already added the infrastructure for Crew Dragon Renewal.

NASA still needs a backup seat

Even though Crew Dragon Resilience is doing well on the ISS, and the next Crew-2 launch is on the April schedule, NASA still wants to have a backup plan. The station’s other three crew members are two Russian cosmonauts and NASA astronaut Kate Rubins, who boarded the Soyuz capsule last year and are due to return to Earth in April. If the Crew-2 spacecraft gets into trouble before its April flight, NASA will need a second option to get an astronaut to the ISS. Otherwise, they risk leaving the station without NASA crew members for the first time since they first captured the station in 2000.

The agency announced earlier this month that it wanted a second seat on Russia’s Soyuz spacecraft as a safety net. Edge NASA is reportedly in talks with space infrastructure startup Axiom Space to book the Soyuz seat instead of buying it directly from the Russians – this is the second time in decades-old NASA-Russia relations.

Luders said the US company (without naming Axium, as negotiations are ongoing) approached NASA with its own proposal and offered a backup solution. So, as a legal formality, NASA issued a notice stating that it was considering buying a Soyuz seat because – says Lutiders – “one of our business providers there said, ‘Hey, here’s a business opportunity for me,’ so they gave An unplanned proposal to us. “

Michael Suffredini, Xxiom’s chief executive, co-founded the Houston-based company in 2016, after 10 years as NASA’s ISS program manager. It is not clear if Axiom already owns the Soyuz seat it sells to NASA as the Houston-based company is currently in the process of buying it with Roscosmos. Both Roskosmos (Russia’s space agency) and Axiom declined to comment.

Although no arrangements have been made, the dealmaking and seat swaps have allowed NASA to take on the U.S. on the ISS. Ready to give the necessary assurances to keep the astronaut. Louders said the Navy and State Department Department of Societies have more U.S. spacecraft on board. Future flights of SpaceX or Boeing capsules in exchange for astronaut flights are in the final stages of signing an agreement with Ruskosmos to fly Russian cosmonauts. Breaking that agreement is a long process.

“We hope it happens a little early, and so unfortunately it didn’t happen in time for the April Soyuz meeting,” Lloyders said. That delay gave Axiom a chance to make a deal.

“If you said, ‘Kathy, what is your logistics dream?’ I would say that every vehicle heading to the ISS must have a US crew member, and we believe that every American vehicle goes to have a Russian crew member on it.

Updated February 22, 1:20 pm ET: The previous version of this story incorrectly misrepresented the cargo version of the crew dragon that was launched in January, the same spacecraft used in the previous uncrewed test mission, DM-1. The DM-1 spacecraft was destroyed in a test explosion in 2019, and the cargo crew Dragon was a new vehicle.