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NASA delays launch of Crew Dragon’s first four-astronaut flight

NASA has delayed the launch of the first operational crewed flight of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule to the International Space Station (ISS).

Originally scheduled for October 31, the mission is now targeted for “no sooner than early-to-mid November” to give launch provider SpaceX more time to deal with an issue with Falcon 9 first-stage engine gas generators that came to light during a recent non-NASA launch attempt.

There’s much focus on the Crew-1 mission as it will be the first operational crewed flight using SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft following its first successful human test flight to and from the ISS with NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken over the summer. The Demo-2 mission was notable not only for being the first crewed flight for the SpaceX capsule, but also because it marked the first astronaut launch from U.S. soil since the end of the space shuttle program in 2011, a feat that meant the U.S. no longer had to rely on Russian Soyuz launches for getting astronauts into space.

Following the Demo-2 mission, NASA said the Crew Dragon suffered more damage than expected to its heat shield has it entered the Earth’s atmosphere on its return journey, though that particular issue has now been resolved.

For the first operational crewed mission next month, the Crew Dragon will carry astronauts Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover, and Shannon Walker of NASA, and Soichi Noguchi of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) from Cape Canaveral in Florida to the space station where they will spend the following six months living and working.

NASA describes The Crew-1 mission as “a major step” for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program that will take the first woman and next man to the moon, ahead of expected human missions to Mars and possibly beyond.

“Operational, long duration commercial crew rotation missions will enable NASA to continue the important research and technology investigations taking place onboard the station,” NASA said in a statement. “Such research benefits people on Earth and lays the groundwork for future exploration of the moon and Mars starting with the agency’s Artemis program, which will land the first woman and the next man on the lunar surface in 2024.

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