KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. – Three American and one Italian astronaut will wait a few more days to launch with SpaceX on their six-month mission to the International Space Station.
NASA revealed Tuesday that the agency and SpaceX are now targeting April 23 to launch the Crew Dragon spacecraft with the Crew-4 mission astronauts. According to NASA, the launch date was pushed a few days to allow for more pre-launch processing.
NASA astronauts Jessica Watkins, Robert Hines, Kjell Lindgren and (European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti of Italy will now launch in their new Dragon spacecraft Freedom at 5:26 a.m. from Kennedy Space Center launchpad 39A.
The Crew-4 astronauts mark the fourth long-duration mission part of NASA's Commercial Crew Program, in which the agency purchases rides to the ISS from SpaceX. It will be SpaceX's fifth human spaceflight overall since 2020.
NASA's other Commercial Crew Program partner Boeing also announced this week it is targeting May 19 to launch its astronaut capsule, the CST-100 Starliner, to the space station on a test run before it begins flying astronauts.
NASA and SpaceX managers conducted a flight readiness review on Friday for the upcoming Crew-4 launch to determine if all the hardware and teams are ready to support the mission. In a call with reporters Friday, NASA Associate Administrator for Space Operations Kathy Lueders said it was a "very, very clean review."
The Crew-4 astronauts are scheduled to arrive at Kennedy Space Center on Monday, where they will stay until their launch on April 23.
On the neighboring launchpad 39B, NASA's mega moon rocket, Artemis-1, is awaiting a potential fourth attempt for a wet dress rehearsal test. On Friday, NASA managers said they could attempt it again on April 21 but need to resolve the current issue with a liquid hydrogen leak discovered during the latest test.
Currently, there is no conflict between the Artemis test and the Crew-4 launch, but Lueders said if it comes down to it, the Crew-4 launch will get the priority on the range.
"There's a difference between a test and needing to get crew on orbit to maintain the on-orbit vehicle and get the Crew-3 vehicle down," she said.
Traffic on the International Space Station will be busy over the next two weeks.
NASA and SpaceX are preparing to bring home the four private astronauts part of the Axiom-1 mission who arrived last week. The paying space explorers with Axiom Space have spent seven days conducting experiments in the orbiting laboratory on the ISS. NASA and SpaceX are planning for the Axiom-1 crew to splash down the morning of April 20 off Florida's coast.
NASA is also preparing for the return home of the four Crew-3 mission astronauts who have been on the ISS since November. NASA Commercial Crew Program Manager Steve Stich said the agency is targeting no later than May 10 for the Crew-3 astronauts to return home.
Should the Crew-4 launch delay again, additional windows are available on April 24 and 25.