SpaceX and NASA Launch Crew-5 Mission

Image: SpaceX

SpaceX launched four astronauts to the ISS aboard its Crew-5 mission with NASA yesterday. The Dragon Endurance spacecraft is expected to dock with the space station today around 5pm ET.

This mission had many, many milestones. 

First up, geopolitics. All signs point to collaboration in space, for now. The crew includes Roscosmos cosmonaut Anna Kikina, the first Russian to fly on an American vehicle since Nov. 2002, before the Columbia tragedy in 2003. Kikina was also the first to fly on a US mission after the July seat swap between NASA and Roscosmos. 

In NASA’s post-launch briefing, Sergei Krikalev, Roscosmos’ head of human space programs, said the Crew-5 mission kicked off “a new phase of our cooperation.” The two nations began cooperating in space over 40 years ago, Krikalev said, “and we will continue our cooperation as long as I can imagine.” 

Next, cultural firsts. Crew-5’s Nicole Mann not only became the first Native American woman to go to space, but also served as SpaceX’s first woman mission commander. She notably brought a dreamcatcher on board to honor her heritage. John Herrington became the first Native American in space in 2002. 

Last but not least, SpaceX records. The Crew-5 mission is SpaceX’s fifth commercial crew mission to the ISS with NASA, and the sixth SpaceX flight with NASA astronauts on board. Crew-5 also marks SpaceX’s eighth human spaceflight in a little over two years. It all happened so fast. Spacex has now launched 30 people to space. Broken out by nationality: 

  • 70% American 
  • 10% Japanese
  • 20% Everywhere Else (one Russian, one Israeli, one Canadian, one German, one French, one Italian)

Looking ahead to Crew-6 and Ax-2. Scheduled for Feb. 2023, Crew-6 will carry two NASA astronauts, an Emirati astronaut, and a cosmonaut to the ISS. After a successful first go, Axiom Space’s second commercial mission to the ISS, Ax-2, will include two Saudi Arabian astronauts, including the first Saudi woman to go to space. Axiom has emerged as a space station-as-a-service provider—it also recently brokered a mission with Turkey to fly an astronaut to the ISS.