SpaceX Crew Dragon: Tom Cruise and others expected to fly in space capsule
Here's what's next for Crew Dragon.
The Crew Dragon has, for the first time, sent people into space as part of a non-test mission — and its developer SpaceX has big plans for more missions, including sending up private citizens.
The "Crew-1" mission launched on Sunday, November 15, at 7:27 p.m. Eastern from Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. A Falcon 9 rocket sent up a Crew Dragon capsule carrying NASA astronauts Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover, and Shannon Walker, plus Soichi Noguchi from Japanese space agency JAXA.
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But SpaceX and NASA are not stopping there. The capsule was designed to regularly transport astronauts to and from the International Space Station, with more missions planned for 2021.
And as perhaps expected, SpaceX isn't planning to wait around to put its proven system to good use. Here's what you can expect to see next:
March 30, 2021: Crew-2 — This will be the second non-test crewed flight for Crew Dragon. Joel Montalbano, NASA’s International Space Station program manager, said in a press briefing attended by SpaceflightNow that this mission is tentatively scheduled for March 30.
This will send up four astronauts, announced in July 2020:
- NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough, born in Killeen, Texas.
- NASA astronaut Megan McArthur, born in Honolulu, Hawaii.
- European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Pesquet, born in Rouen in France. The agency is training up Matthias Maurer, born in Sankt Wendel in Germany, as Pesquet's backup.
- Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Akihiko Hoshide, born in Tokyo.
NASA expects to use the same Falcon 9 booster for Crew-2 as it did for Crew-1. The booster successfully landed on the Just Read the Instructions droneship after last week's launch.
In an interview with France 24, Pesquet explained the agencies are still preparing final plans for what the team will do at the space station. One key focus, he said, is likely to be medical science and material science in keeping with much of the ISS' work.
Late 2021: Crew-3 — This is the third non-test mission.
Timings are unclear, but it's expected to be sometime late next year. Michal Vaclavik, Czech representative at the European Space Agency, claimed in September that it would take place in September 2021. Montalbano said in last week's conference, however, that the mission would take place around late summer to early fall.
Maurer, Pesquet's backup on Crew-2, is expected to fly on Crew-3. Details of the other passengers are unclear.
Late 2021: Private flight — This mission is being organized by Axiom Space. This may be the first Crew Dragon flight with private citizens.
NME reported in September that it would take place in October 2021. The star of the flight would be Tom Cruise. He would be joined by director Doug Liman, who will work together to shoot a film on board the space station. NASA astronaut Michael Lopez-Alegria would be expected to take the third seat.
NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine has confirmed Cruise will visit the space station, but did not confirm which mission or capsule
CNBC reported Monday that Eytan Stibbe, a former Israeli fighter pilot, would join Lopez-Alegria on the mission with a tentative launch for late next year. The publication also noted, however, that Axiom Space has not confirmed the other two passengers on its first flight.
Late 2021 to mid-2022: Space Adventures flight — This mission, announced in February, will send up to four private citizens into space for up to five days. The rocket is expected to take off from Cape Canaveral in Florida. The mission comes from Space Adventures, a Washington, D.C.-based firm.