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Adept at adaptation




Adept at adaptation

There may be challenges ahead for the industry, but UK-based AS9100 Rev D accredited precision engineering specialists, Bright Engineering says it is holding its nerve.

Being situated at the heart of East Lancashire’s aerospace belt might normally be seen as an overwhelming benefit for any small business involved in advanced manufacturing. However, as is the case for many subcontractors up and down the country, the grinding to a halt of the commercial aviation sector has proved to be a huge challenge, albeit not entirely insurmountable.

Bright Engineering services a number of industries with the supply of precision components and sub-assemblies and has customers across the UK, and several in the US. Bright counts aerospace as around 20-30% of its operating income, but is fortunate to be involved in many other sectors including green technologies, electronics and automation, as well as defence.

Pre-lockdown, the company had built up resilience on the back of strong multi-sector demand in 2018-2019, and in 2019 pressed ahead with a fairly extensive programme of machine tool investment upwards of £1 million. This expenditure signified Bright’s most major rejuvenation of the shopfloor and replacement of ageing machinery it had seen for several years, and followed a trade mission to Yamazaki Mazak’s headquarters and plant operations in Japan.

Bright’s latest CNC machines include the Mazak Variaxis i500 and the Integrex J200S

For Bright, the benefit of the trip not only extended to witnessing first-hand how the machine tool manufacturer handles quality, but allowed the business to forge new relationships which have endured. From this experience Bright now counts new customers and suppliers which have allowed it to strengthen the business throughout the pandemic.

One of these relationships led to a production order for ventilator components, which carried the business and its people through the dark days of the March 2020 lockdown.

“The medical order at the time of the Covid outbreak was a matter of pride for Bright and its workforce,” says managing director, Jon Hoyle. “It involved working day and night seven days a week until it was complete and our team enjoyed being part of this national effort. It kept us going mentally, as well as at an operational level.”

As the end of the lockdown emerged, Bright’s usual customers started coming back to life, although Hoyle admits in certain sectors it is still only coming back in fits and starts. Sales from the US have remained strong, whereas many buyers in the UK have remained on furlough. The result from this is all to do with adaptability. Pre-lockdown, Bright’s strategic aims were around building a long-term orderbook for the future.

Ready and willing

The company admits the vision is currently a bit shorter-term, but as sales director, Steve Amey says: “It ensures we remain flexible, listen to the needs of our customers and evolve the business plan on a monthly basis. That is the reality of 2020, and we believe that regular refinement of our working model will make us all the stronger in readiness for 2021. The capacity to spring back is ready and waiting.”

Of course, the business has utilised the much-welcomed furlough scheme as the pandemic has evolved. However, it has also taken many positive steps to guarantee operational stability in testing times. In certain cases, remote working has really proved positive for Bright and the workforce have made good use of products, such as Microsoft Teams, Skype, WhatsApp, etc. to really stay in touch, keep things moving for the clients, and transmit key messages to staff around the pandemic.

As well as staff communication, Bright has also engaged some really creative uses of Teams, as Amey continues: “Involvement in the Ventilator Challenge UK project was a fast-paced affair, with design and production requirements evolving several times a day. At one point, Teams was the catalyst for one of the quickest pieces of customer decision-making I have seen in my career.”

The episode Amey refers to was a dramatic win in terms of customer experience, and saw Bright on Teams chat with its own supplier partner, the customer, as well as the end user. The usual protecting of sources had to be put to one side for the good of the project, and in fact led to one of the proudest moments of collaboration Bright has been involved with. With Bright’s strategic input, using the customer’s CAD/CAM package over Teams, a component was redesigned, re-posted to CAM and sample component produced by Bright within 90 minutes of the initial technical query being raised.

Indeed, there have been some other real wins for the business during the course of the year too. As certain staff may have been off work for shielding purposes, the company’s apprentice cohort were relied upon more heavily.

“The conditions thrust on us by this pandemic have actually allowed our apprentices to shine,” states Hoyle. “20% of our workforce are undergoing training from Level 3 to HNC, and during the ventilator production our youngsters seized the challenge, often taking the responsibility that we would expect of a quality inspector or section leader. We got to see their very best attributes over a four-week period and it was impressive.”

Bright has rejuvenated its shopfloor and replaced ageing machinery

Further to keeping production moving, the apprentice team have at times, had slightly more interaction with their leaders, and less day-to-day pressures than any other normal year in the company’s history. Ensuring this time wasn’t wasted, it has allowed for accelerated periods of learning on Bright’s latest complex CNC machines, such as the Variaxis i500 and the Integrex J200S multi-tasking machines. In fact, it hasn’t gone unnoticed across any of Bright’s senior leaders that its apprentices have really seized the opportunity to develop their skills over the last six months.

On the horizon

As Bright looks to the near future, there is an equal mixture of concern and trepidation but also a feeling of opportunity. Hoyle believes there is a strong case for the government to continue some targeted support for the sector. Areas like East Lancashire, Motorsport Valley in the South East, West Midlands, Northern Ireland and the North East all provide a rich and varied contribution to the UK advanced manufacturing output as a whole. Plenty of people in the industry felt a continuation of the job retention scheme was necessary, particularly in a way that specifically encouraged part-time working. The Chancellor has since made his announcement, but Bright would also like to see business rate support as well as increased assistance for apprentices over the age of 18, particularly those on HNC programmes.

“Aerospace provides a large portion of business to UK subcontractors and government and companies themselves need to get to the other side of the pandemic in one piece,” concludes Hoyle. “For the foreseeable future, we control costs, look at alternative revenue streams and get even closer to our existing customers.

“Customers in the main aren’t looking to exploit the current situation. Instead they want reliable trustworthy supply chain partners and our continued support. We also talk to our competitors and listen to their problems and successes; sharing best practice is usually free of charge, but highly valuable, and that one successful collaboration could make all the difference to our joint future success.”


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OneWeb emerges from bankruptcy, aims to begin launching satellites again on December 17




Broadband communication satellite company OneWeb has emerged from its Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection status, the company announced today. It’s now also officially owned by a consortium consisting of the UK government and India’s Bharti Global, and Neil Masterson is now installed as CEO, replacing outgoing chief executive Adrian Steckel, who will remain as a Board advisor.

OneWeb seems eager to get back to actively launching the satellites that will make up its 650-strong constellation – it has set December 17 as the target date for its next launch. The company has 74 satellite already on orbit across three prior launches, which occurred prior to its bankruptcy filing in March.

OneWeb’s acquisition by the combined UK government/Bharti Global tie-up was revealed in July, providing a path for the financially beleaguered company to get back to active status with $1 billion in equity funding. The UK-based company will continue to operate primarily from the UK via this new deal, and it’s being positioned as a key cornerstone in positioning the UK as a space sector leader and innovator.

The company also announced that its joint-venture manufacturing facility with Airbus has resumed operation in Florida, and will continue to produce new spacecraft for future launches. The plan is to launch additional satellites throughout next year and 2022, and then begin offering commercial service in select areas late in 2021, with a global service expansion intended for 2022.


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Astronauts fly with SpaceX in landmark launch for commercial spaceflight




A Falcon 9 rocket lifts off at 7:27 p.m. EST Sunday (0027 GMT Monday) with SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft carrying four astronauts to the International Space Station. Credit: Stephen Clark / Spaceflight Now

A Crew Dragon capsule ferried four astronauts into space Sunday night after a rumbling departure from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, setting off on a 27-hour pursuit of the International Space Station on SpaceX’s first operational crew rotation flight to the orbiting outpost.

The commercial crew capsule, named “Resilience” by its four-person crew, rocketed off pad 39A at the Florida spaceport at 7:27:17 p.m. EST Sunday (0027:17 GMT Monday). A 215-foot-tall (65-meter) Falcon 9 rocket gave the Crew Dragon spacecraft a fiery ride into orbit.

NASA commander Mike Hopkins was joined inside the crew capsule by pilot Victor Glover, mission specialist Shannon Walker, and Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi. The four-person team is heading for a nearly six-month expedition on the space station, where the Dragon spaceship is due to dock at 11 p.m. EST Monday (0400 GMT Tuesday).

The Falcon 9 launcher streaked into a clear evening sky, taking aim on the International Space Station as it flew northeast from Florida’s Space Coast powered by nine Merlin 1D engines generating 1.7 million pounds of ground-shaking thrust.

Two-and-a-half minutes into the mission, the Falcon 9’s 15-story-tall first stage shut down and separated to begin falling toward a controlled propulsive landing on a SpaceX drone ship parked in the Atlantic Ocean.

The rocket’s upper stage ignited its single Merlin-Vacuum engine and accelerated into orbit with Hopkins and his crewmates. SpaceX mission control regularly radioed status reports to the Dragon crew as the rocket headed up U.S. East Coast, then crossed the Atlantic Ocean on a course toward the British Isles.

The Falcon 9 shut down its upper stage engine around nine minutes after liftoff, and the rocket deployed the Crew Dragon Resilience spacecraft about three minutes later. The rocket’s first stage booster, meanwhile, nailed an on-target landing on SpaceX’s offshore recovery platform for reuse on SpaceX’s next crew mission in 2021.

“To the entire Falcon 9 team, well done, that was one heck of a ride,” Hopkins said shortly after launch. “There was a lot of smiles (up here) … Making history is definitely hard and you guys all made it look easy. Again, congratulations to everyone. Resilience is in orbit.”

Astronauts Shannon Walker, Victor Glover, Mike Hopkins, and Soichi Noguchi wave to their families, media, and VIPs outside the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building. Credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky

The successful blastoff marked the start of the first human spaceflight mission to Earth orbit operated as a commercial service.

SpaceX, working under contract to NASA, built the Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon spacecraft, own both vehicles, and control the mission from its corporate headquarters in Hawthorne, California, near Los Angeles.

The first “operational” Crew Dragon mission, known as Crew-1, will pave the way for more commercial flights to orbit carrying professional astronauts and paying passengers.

The Crew-1 mission is the first of at least six space station crew rotation flights NASA has contracted to SpaceX, following a successful demonstration mission to the space station earlier this year.

NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken launched May 30 on the Crew Dragon’s final developmental test flight, ending a nearly nine-year gap in independent human spaceflight capability to low Earth orbit after the retirement of NASA’s space shuttle fleet.

Hurley and Behnken spent two months on the space station before returning to Earth for a parachute-assisted splashdown on their Crew Dragon Endeavour spacecraft in the Gulf of Mexico on Aug. 2.

After reviewing data from the test flight, SpaceX engineers reinforced part of the Crew Dragon’s heat shield and made several other adjustments before managers cleared the Crew-1 mission for launch.

NASA officials formally certified the Crew Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket for operational flights during a two-day Flight Readiness Review last week.

“The big milestone here is we are now moving from development and test and into operational flights,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine.

NASA has spent $6 billion over the last decade helping companies develop new commercial human-rated spacecraft. In 2014, the space agency selected SpaceX and Boeing as partners to complete development of the Crew Dragon and Starliner crew capsules.

SpaceX has signed agreements with NASA valued at more than $3.1 billion to cover design, testing, and six operational flights of the Crew Dragon spacecraft.

The launch Sunday night was licensed by the Federal Aviation Administration — the first time that agency has licensed a crew launch into Earth orbit. The FAA regularly licenses commercial satellite launches by U.S. companies.

“I believe 20 years from now, we’re going to look back at this time as a major turning point in our exploration and utilization of space,” said Phil McAlister, director of commercial spaceflight development at NASA Headquarters. “It’s not an exaggeration to state that with this milestone, NASA and SpaceX have changed the historical arc of human space transportation.”

“Not only can NASA transport our astronauts to and from the International Space Station with U.S. systems, but now, for the first time in history, there is a commercial capability from a private sector entity to safely and reliably transport people to space,” McAlister said in a pre-launch conference call with reporters.

The Crew-1 astronauts strapped into their seats before launch Sunday. Credit: SpaceX

The Commercial Crew Program has its roots in the Obama administration, which canceled NASA’s Constellation moon program in 2010 after the George W. Bush administration’s lunar exploration initiative suffered delays and cost overruns.

An independent commission found in 2009 that it would cost more than $34 billion to complete the first phase of the Constellation program, which would have fielded the Ares 1 rocket and an Orion crew capsule capable of flights to the International Space Station.

McAlister said the Commercial Crew Program saved taxpayers between $20 billion and $30 billion, and will result in two independent crew transportation systems for low Earth orbit missions, once the Crew Dragon and Starliner spaceships are both cleared for operational flights.

Boeing’s Starliner has not yet flown with astronauts, and the aerospace contractor plans a second unpiloted test flight in early 2021 after software problems cut short the Starliner’s first orbital demonstration mission last year.

The Crew Dragon and Starliner could fly private astronauts on standalone missions without going to the International Space Station. Eventually, the commercial capsules could transport researchers, space tourists, and professional astronauts to privately-owned outposts in orbit.

Although officials hailed the Crew-1 mission as a milestone toward making human spaceflight more affordable and routine, NASA and SpaceX officials said they would stay vigilant in assessing technical risks on future commercial crew launches.

“Make no mistake, every flight is a test flight when it comes to space travel, but it’s also true that we need to routinely be able to go the International Space Station,” Bridenstine said.

Hopkins, commander of the Crew Dragon Resilience spacecraft, said one of the goals of his flight is to “put the vehicle through its operational paces.”

The Crew-1 mission is the first time four astronauts have flown on a Crew Dragon spacecraft — and the first time a four-person crew have been inside any capsule in orbit. Past space missions flying on crew capsules have carried no more than three astronauts, while NASA’s space shuttle accommodated as many as eight astronauts.

Hopkins and his crewmates will fly nearly three times longer then the Crew Dragon test flight earlier this year, pushing the capsule close to its 210-day maximum mission duration.

“Bob and Doug’s mission was the developmental test mission,” Glover said in a pre-flight press conference, referring to Crew Dragon’s Demo-2 mission. “As soon as we hit Day 64, that’s going to be the first time that a Crew Dragon at the space station his hit that milestone, and every day after that will be new territory.”

“In general, I think it’s more of an operational checkout than development testing,” Hopkins said.

The start of commercial Crew Dragon service ends NASA’s sole reliance on Russian Soyuz spacecraft to ferry astronauts to and from the space station.

The Crew Dragon Resilience spacecraft rockets off pad 39A atop a 215-foot-tall Falcon 9 launcher. Credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky

Hopkins, 51, is a native of Missouri and a colonel in the U.S. Air Force. He served as a flight test engineer before his selection as a NASA astronaut in 2009, then completed a 166-day expedition on the space station in 2013 and 2014. NASA named him to command the first operational Crew Dragon mission in 2018.

Glover is the mission’s rookie, and he is set to become the first Black astronaut to live and work on the space station for a long-duration expedition. The 44-year-old U.S. Navy test pilot was born and raised in Southern California, graduated with a bachelor’s degree in engineering from Cal Poly, then flew F/A-18 fighter jets before joining NASA’s astronaut corps in 2013.

Shannon Walker was born in Houston and earned a bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, and a PhD in space physics from Rice University. Walker, 55, was a flight controller and integration engineer on the space shuttle and space station before NASA selected her as an astronaut in 2004. She logged 163 days in orbit on the space station in 2010.

Noguchi, 55, is the most experienced astronaut on the Dragon crew. With Sunday night’s launch, Noguchi became the third person to blast off from Earth and fly into orbit on three different types of spacecraft, joining a small club with legendary NASA astronauts Wally Schirra and John Young.

He previously flew on a space shuttle mission and launched on a Russian Soyuz rocket to the space station. The Crew-1 mission is Noguchi’s third spaceflight.

After docking Monday night, the four Dragon astronauts will join NASA astronaut Kate Rubins and Russian cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and flight engineer Sergey Kud-Sverchkov on the International Space Station, raising the size of the lab’s long-term crew to seven people for the first time.

Rubins, Ryzhikov, and Kud-Sverchkov launched Oct. 14 on a Soyuz spacecraft.

The space station has typically operated with six people on-board. The addition of a seventh crew member will increase the pace of scientific experiments on the orbiting lab, NASA officials said.

The seven-person crew will also perform a series of spacewalks, oversee arrivals and departures of cargo freighters, and perform maintenance tasks on the space station.

The next Crew Dragon mission is tentatively scheduled to launch March 30 with an all-veteran crew consisting of NASA commander Shane Kimbrough, pilot Megan McArthur, Japanese astronaut Akihiko Hoshide, and European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Pesquet. They will ride the same Crew Dragon Endeavour capsule that Hurley and Behnken flew earlier this year.

A fresh three-man team of Russian cosmonauts will launch around April 10 to replace Rubins, Ryzhikov, and Kud-Sverchkov, who are slated to land in their Soyuz capsule in mid-April. Then Hopkins and his crewmates will leave the complex and head splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean or Gulf of Mexico some time around May 1.

But first, the Crew Dragon Resilience spacecraft has to link up with the International Space Station Monday night. The capsule accomplished its first major rocket firing around 45 minutes after liftoff Sunday, setting the stage for additional maneuvers Monday to approach the station.

Ground controllers at SpaceX’s operations center in Hawthorne tracked several technical problems on the spacecraft soon after launch Sunday night.

One of the issues involved thermal control loops on the crew capsule. Automated sensors detected a pressure spike in the spacecraft’s cooling system, but engineers on the ground restored the coolant loops to full capability.

Then mission control studied “high resistance” readings that temporarily disabled three of four propellant line heaters associated with a group of Draco thrusters on the spacecraft. Flight rules require at least two of four propellant line heaters be working, briefly raising concerns that the heater glitch might impact the capsule’s journey to the space station.

Ground teams determined the issue was triggered by a software limit that was set too conservatively, causing the three heaters to be taken offline. After relaxing the resistance limit, all four heaters in the Draco thruster quad were reactivated, restoring the system to full redundancy.

“That is excellent news,” Hopkins said. “Good to hear — back to full fault tolerance for the prop manifold heaters,” Hopkins said.


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SpaceX launches first operational Crew Dragon mission to ISS




WASHINGTON — A SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft carrying four American and Japanese astronauts is on its way to the International Space Station after a successful Falcon 9 launch Nov. 15.

The Falcon 9 lifted off from the Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A at 7:27 p.m. Eastern. The Crew Dragon spacecraft, named “Resilience” by its four-person crew, separated from the rocket’s upper stage 12 minutes after liftoff. The rocket’s first stage landed on a droneship in the Atlantic Ocean nine and a half minutes after liftoff.

The spacecraft is scheduled to dock with the ISS at approximately 11 p.m. Eastern Nov. 16. The crew of NASA astronauts Mike Hopkins, Vic Glover and Shannon Walker, and JAXA astronaut Soichi Noguchi, will stay on the station for six months.

The launch was scheduled for Nov. 14 but delayed a day because of weather that delayed the arrival of the droneship to the landing zone in the Atlantic. It was not affected by an apparent case of COVID-19 by SpaceX Chief Executive Elon Musk, who reported mixed testing results and symptoms consistent with a mild case. Musk was not in close contact with the crew, and was notably absent from pre-launch activities at KSC, with company president Gwynne Shotwell present instead.

Moving into operations

The Crew-1 mission sets a number of firsts. Glover will be the first Black astronaut to perform a long-duration flight on the ISS. Noguchi is the first Japanese astronauts to fly to orbit on three different vehicles: the shuttle, Soyuz and Crew Dragon. The mission is the first crewed orbital flight licensed commercially by the Federal Aviation Administration.

The mission is also the first operational commercial crew flight, after the successful completion of the Demo-2 test flight this summer with NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley on board. NASA signed the paperwork formally certifying the spacecraft at the end of a flight readiness review Nov. 10.

“It’s just a tremendous day that is a culmination of a ton of work,” Kathy Lueders, NASA associate administrator for human exploration and operations, said at a Nov. 10 briefing after the review. “It’s NASA saying to SpaceX you have shown us you can deliver a crew transportation capability that meets our requirements.”

The certification also formally closed out SpaceX’s commercial crew contract with NASA to develop and demonstrate the Crew Dragon spacecraft. “With this milestone, NASA has concluded that the SpaceX system has successfully met our design, safety and performance requirements,” said Phil McAlister, director of commercial spaceflight development at NASA Headquarters, during a Nov. 12 call with reporters. “It marks the end of the development phase of the system.”

Crew-1 is the first of a series of what are formally known as “post-certification missions” by NASA. Crew-2, which will fly astronauts from NASA, JAXA and the European Space Agency, has a launch readiness date of March 30, 2021, agency officials said at the Nov. 10 briefing. Crew-3 would follow in late summer or early fall.

NASA has called these “operational” missions on many occasions because they are intended primarily for crew transportation to and from the ISS, rather than testing of the spacecraft itself. “We’re launching what we call an operational flight to the International Space Station,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said during a media event at KSC Nov. 13.

However, agency officials acknowledge that the vehicle is still new, with more to learn. “I would not characterize it as ‘operational’ at this point. There a little bit of a debate as to when we will achieve that designation,” McAlister said. “We’ve completed the development phase, and we are transitioning into operations.”

But, he added, “We don’t want to ever just victory and say we’re done learning and get complacent.” He emphasized the need to “stay vigilant” during these missions, even though the certification confirms that the vehicle meets the NASA requirements.

There will inevitably be problems, McAlister said. “I fully expect there to be issues and anomalies on future missions. No mode of human transportation is risk-free: even bicycles malfunction from time to time,” he said.

The present and future of space stations

The four Crew-1 astronauts will join NASA astronaut Kate Rubins and Roscosmos cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov, who arrived at the station last month on a Soyuz spacecraft. That will bring the station’s crew to seven for the first time on a long-duration basis, something NASA has emphasized as a means of increasing the station’s scientific output.

“We’re looking forward to having the extra capability on board, which will allow us to increase the science we do, increase the exploration development we do,” said Joel Montalbano, NASA ISS program manager, at a Nov. 13 briefing.

“It’s going to be exciting to see how much work we’re going to be able to get done while we’re there,” said Hopkins, commander of Crew-1, during a Nov. 9 media event. He said the crew had seen the plan for their first week of activities on the station after their arrival, which had little unscheduled time. “I think they’re going to keep us pretty busy.”

NASA is working to build up the business case for future commercial space stations that will eventually serve as successors for the ISS. Part of that is demonstrating the kinds of activities that could be done on those future space stations. “The next big phase is commercial space stations themselves,” Bridenstine said. “The ultimate goal is to have more resources to do things for which there is not a commercial marketplace, like go to the moon and on to Mars.”

“I believe we are about to see a major expansion in our ability to work in, play in and explore space,” McAlister said of what commercial crew vehicle, including Crew Dragon and Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner, will be able to achieve. “People have predicting this for decades, and I hope we are on the cusp of seeing that happen.”


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SpaceX and NASA successfully launch four astronauts to space for first operational Dragon crew mission




SpaceX has become the first private company to launch astronauts to the International Space Station, marking the culmination of years of work in partnership with NASA on developing human spaceflight capabilities. At 7:27 PM EST (4:27 PM PST), NASA astronauts Shannon Walker, Victor Glover, and Michael Hopkins, and JAXA astronaut Soichi Noguchi left launch pad 39-A at Kennedy Space Center in Florida bound for the ISS.

SpaceX’s human launch program was developed under the Commercial Crew program, which saw NASA select two private companies to build astronaut launch systems for carrying astronauts to the ISS from U.S. soil. SpaceX was chosen alongside Boeing by NASA in 2014 to create their respective systems, and SpaceX’s Dragon capsule and Falcon 9 rocket became the first to achieve actual human flight certification from NASA earlier this year with the successful completion of its final, Demo-2 test mission, which flew to the ISS with two U.S. astronauts on board.

To get to this point, SpaceX had to complete a number of milestones successfully, including a fully automated uncrewed ISS rendez-vous mission, and a demonstration of both a launch pad abort and post-launch abort emergency safety system for the protection of the crew. During the Demo-1 mission, while all actual launch, docking and landing was handled by SpaceX’s fully autonomous software and navigation, astronauts also took over manual control briefly to demonstrate that this human-piloted backup would operate as intended, if required.

So far, Crew-1 is proceeding as expected, with a picture-perfect takeoff from Florida, and a successful recovery of the first-stage booster used on the Falcon 9 rocket used to launch Dragon. Crew Dragon ‘Resilience’ also departed from the second-stage of the Falcon 9 as planned at just after 10 minutes after liftoff, and there will be a 27 hour trip in orbit before the Dragon meets up with the ISS for its docking, which is scheduled to take place at around 11 PM EST (8 PM PST) on Monday night. Once fully docked, the astronauts will disembark and go over to the station to begin their active duty stay, which is set to last until next June.

From left, the crew of Crew-1: NASA’s Shannon Walker, Victor Glover and Michael Hopkins; JAXA’s Soichi Noguchi Image Credits: SpaceX

Three of the four astronauts on this mission have been to space previously, but for pilot Victor Glover, it’s his first time. These four will join NASA’s Kate Rubins, and Roscosmos cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov on the station, bringing the total staff complement to seven (an increase from its usual six that NASA says will free up more time for the astronauts to perform experiments, as opposed to their tasks related to regular daily maintenance of the station).

This is the first time that astronauts have launched to space during a regular operational NASA mission since the end of the Shuttle program in 2011. It marks an official return of U.S. human spaceflight capabilities, and should hopefully become the first in many human flight missions undertaken by SpaceX and Dragon – across both NASA flights, and those organized by commercial customers.


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