NASA selects full crew for first operational Dragon mission


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Even though SpaceX’s first demonstration manned mission to ISS has not yet occurred, NASA yesterday announced the selection of the full four person crew for the second flight, set for later this year and intended as the first operational mission to ISS, lasting six months.

This announcement tells us several things, all good. First, it appears NASA has now definitely decided that the demo mission, presently scheduled for mid-May, will be a short-term mission. They had considered making it a six-month mission, but it now appears they have concluded doing so will delay the demo launch too much.

Second, that NASA is solidifying its plans for that operational flight, the second for Dragon, including a tentative launch date later in 2020, is further evidence that they intend to go through with the demo mission in mid-May.

Finally, it appears that NASA has decided that it will not buy more seats on Russian Soyuz capsules, something that they had previously hinted they needed to do because the agency was worried the American capsules would not be ready this year. The article describes the negotiations on-going with the Russians about the use of Dragon, as well as the future use by Americans of Soyuz. NASA wishes to have astronauts from both countries fly on both spacecraft (Starliner too, once operational), but Russia is as yet reluctant to fly its astronauts on Dragon. They want to see that spacecraft complete more missions successfully.

Regardless, future flights of Americans on Soyuz will cost NASA nothing, as the agency wishes to trade the seats on the U.S. capsules one-for-one for the seats on Soyuz. It also means that NASA has decided it doesn’t need to buy Soyuz flights anymore, as it now expects Dragon to become operational this year.

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3 comments

  • sippin_bourbon

    I think this is good news, as an indicator that they still intend to stick to the current time line.

  • pzatchok

    It could be as simple as NASA now trusts Space X more then Russia for a safe flight.

  • Richard M

    I have to say that it *is* a little striking that NASA still has yet to announce a duration time for the DM-2 mission. It’s only six weeks or so away from launch, after all.

    I tend to agree with you, Bob, that this all has the smell of a shorter mission; but then again, it might still be longer than the original planned two weeks. As is, after Expedition 62 departs the station on April 17, there will be only one American left on the station (Chris Cassidy). The next Soyuz, MS-17, won’t be until October. Given that Behnken and Hurley *have* been doing a lot of training, it wouldn’t shock me if they were kept on the station for 4-6 weeks to take care of high priority tasks.

    But whatever the case is, let us hope that USCV-1 will be happening before the end of the summer. It certainly sounds like there’s grounds for hope that will happen now.

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