Science

ESA astronaut set for launch on SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket

Thomas Pesquet will be the first ESA astronaut to fly on a SpaceX Crew Dragon.

A European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut is expected to blast off into space on Thursday on his second mission to the International Space Station (ISS).

Thomas Pesquet will be the first ESA astronaut to fly on a SpaceX Crew Dragon being launched on a Falcon 9 rocket from Florida.

He will accompany Nasa astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur and Jaxa (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) astronaut Akihiko Hoshide.

During the final month of his stay Mr Pesquet will be commander of the ISS.

The mission will see a number of scientific experiments conducted on the ISS covering human research, biology, fluid physics, material sciences and environmental sciences.

SpaceX Crew Dragon
Thomas Pesquet (ESA/PA)

This will be the spaceflight mission to fly astronauts on a flight-proven Falcon 9 and Dragon.

The Falcon 9 first stage supporting the mission previously launched the Crew-1 mission in November 2020 and the Dragon spacecraft previously flew Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley to and from the International Space Station during SpaceX’s Demo-2 mission in 2020.

This is the second crew rotation flight with astronauts on the Crew Dragon spacecraft and the first launch with two international partners as part of the Nasa’s commercial crew programme.

The instantaneous launch window opens at 11.11 BST on Thursday, with a back-up opportunity available on Friday at 10.49 BST.

After successfully docking at the space station, the astronauts of Crew-2 will join the Expedition 65 crew aboard the orbital outpost, including the Crew-1 astronauts still aboard.

After an approximate six-month stay, Dragon and the Crew-2 astronauts will depart from the ISS no earlier than October 31 for return to Earth and splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Florida.

The Crew-1 astronauts are targeted for return in late April or early May.

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