The four astronaut mission is scheduled to lift off no earlier than 12pm EDT Wednesday from launch complex 39A at Kennedy Space Center, in Florida. Nasa TV coverage of the pre-launch activities will begin at 8.30am EDT and continue through the launch, with a post-launch news conference scheduled for around 1.30pm EDT.
The Crew-5 mission will see Nasa astronauts Nicole Mann and Josh Cassada, Japanese Space Agency astronaut Koichi Wakata, and Russian cosmonaut Anna Kikina fly in a SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft named Endurance, lofted into orbit atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. After reaching orbit Wednesday afternoon, it will take the crew roughly a day to dock with the International Space Station at around 4.57pm EDT on Thursday.
The Crew-5 astronauts will spend several days sharing the space station with the astronauts of the Crew-4 mission, which launched to the space station on 27 April. After a few days, the Crew-4 mission astronauts will return to Earth in their own Crew Dragon spacecraft, splashing down in the waters off the coast of Florida.
Although Nasa gave them thumbs up for the launch on Tuesday, some issue could arise that would delay or cancel the launch. However, the US Space Force 45th Weather Squadron on Tuesday predicted a 90% chance of favorable weather for the Wednesday launch window, according to Nasa.
Crew-5 is the fifth mission of Nasa’s Commercial Crew Program, which contracts with private space launch companies to fly astronauts to and from the Space Station. Nasa awarded Commercial Crew contracts to two companies, Boeing and SpaceX, but only SpaceX has flown astronauts so far, with its Crew-1 mission flying on 16 November 2020.
After some problem in uncrewed Testing, Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft may fly its first crewed test mission sometime in early 2023, after which it could begin regular service to the space station just like the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft.
While almost routine in its logistics, the Crew-5 mission will help make history: Nicole Mann, a former US Marine Corps fighter pilot born in Petaluma, California, will be the first indigenous woman Nasa astronaut to fly in space.