Live coverage: Four astronauts ready for launch overnight from Florida’s Space Coast

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Live coverage of the countdown and launch of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on NASA’s Crew-4 mission. The Crew-4 mission will carry astronauts Kjell Lindgren, Bob Hines, Samantha Cristoforetti, and Jessica Watkins to the International Space Station. Follow us on Twitter.

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Four astronauts will strap into their seats on SpaceX’s Dragon Freedom spacecraft and ride a Falcon 9 rocket into orbit early Wednesday from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, beginning a 16-hour chase of the International Space Station. Liftoff from pad 39A is set for 3:52 a.m. EDT (0752 GMT).

Kjell Lindgren, a veteran of 141 days in orbit on a previous flight, commands the Crew-4 mission to the space station. Pilot Bob Hines and mission specialist Jessica Watkins, both spaceflight rookies, will join Lindgren on the mission. European Space Agency astronaut rounds out the crew.

The four-person crew is set to begin a mission lasting nearly five months at the space station, performing experiments and maintenance, conducting spacewalks, and continuing nearly 22 years of continuous human presence on the orbiting outpost.

The mission will mark the seventh launch of astronauts by SpaceX since the first Dragon flight to carry people. It is SpaceX’s fourth operational crew rotation flight for NASA under a multibillion-dollar contract.

The astronauts have spent the last week at the Kennedy Space Center undergoing final training and flight preps, and spending time with family before their multi-month expedition off the planet.

“I plan to take a very long luxurious shower on that last day before launch,” said Cristoforetti, an Italian-born flier poised for her second trip to space.

NASA astronaut Jessica Watkins, commander Kjell Lindgren, pilot Bob Hines, and European Space Agency astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti on the tower at pad 39A, with SpaceX’s Dragon Freedom spacecraft in the background. Credit: SpaceX

Assuming the launch occurs Wednesday morning, the Crew-4 astronauts are scheduled to arrive at the station for docking at 8:15 p.m. EDT Wednesday (0015 GMT Thursday).

Lindgren, Hines, Cristoforetti and Watkins will receive briefings from the four astronauts they are replacing on the station.

The flight plan calls for handover of at least five days between the new Crew-4 astronauts and the outgoing Crew-3 astronauts, who are tentatively scheduled to depart the station around May 4, targeting a splashdown off the coast of Florida around May 5, wrapping up their nearly six-month mission.

Commander Raja Chari, pilot Tom Marshburn, and mission specialists Matthias Maurer and Kayla Barron launched on the Crew-3 mission last November. They will ride SpaceX’s Dragon Endurance spacecraft back to Earth, leaving the Crew-4 astronauts at the station with three Russian cosmonaut crewmates.

The Dragon Freedom spacecraft is the fourth, and likely last, human-rated vehicle to join SpaceX’s fleet of reusable Dragon capsules. It joins Dragon Endeavour, Dragon Resilience, and Dragon Endurance in the company’s inventory.

The Crew-4 mission will launch on a Falcon 9 booster — tail number B0167 — flown on three previous missions. The booster stage launched for the first time last June 3 on a cargo mission to the space station, then flew again Nov. 10 with the Crew-3 mission. Most recently, the booster launched Dec. 18 with the Turksat 5B communications satellite.

The countdown clock at the KSC press site displays the Crew-4 mission patch, with the Falcon 9 and Dragon Freedom on pad 39A in the background. Credit: Stephen Clark / Spaceflight Now

There’s a 90% chance of acceptable weather at the Kennedy Space Center for liftoff Wednesday morning, and a low-to-moderate risk of bad conditions along the Falcon 9’s ascent corridor heading northeast over the Atlantic Ocean. SpaceX monitors conditions downrange to ensure weather and sea states would be safe for a splashdown of the Dragon spacecraft in the event of an in-flight abort caused by a rocket failure.

The rocket’s first stage will land on the drone ship “A Shortfall of Gravitas” parked in the Atlantic Ocean about 340 miles (545 kilometers) downrange from the launch pad.

Read our mission preview story for details on the Crew-4 launch.

ROCKET: Falcon 9 (B1067.4)

PAYLOAD: Crew Dragon Freedom on the Crew-4 mission

LAUNCH SITE: LC-39A, Kennedy Space Center, Florida

LAUNCH DATE: April 27, 2022

LAUNCH TIME: 3:52:55 a.m. EDT (0752:55 GMT)

LAUNCH WINDOW: Instantaneous

WEATHER FORECAST: 90% probability of acceptable weather

BOOSTER RECOVERY: “A Shortfall of Gravitas” drone ship

LAUNCH AZIMUTH: Northeast

TARGET ORBIT: Approximately 130 miles by 143 miles (210 by 230 kilometers); Inclination of 51.6 degrees to the equator

DOCKING AT ISS: 8:15 p.m. EDT on Wednesday, April 27 (0015 GMT on Thursday, April 28)

LANDING DATE: September 2022

LAUNCH TIMELINE:

  • T+00:00: Liftoff
  • T+01:02: Maximum aerodynamic pressure (Max-Q)
  • T+02:36: First stage main engine cutoff (MECO)
  • T+02:39: Stage separation
  • T+02:40: Second stage engine ignition
  • T+07:28: First stage entry burn ignition (three engines)
  • T+08:48: Second stage engine cutoff (SECO 1)
  • T+09:02: First stage landing burn ignition (one engine)
  • T+09:30: First stage landing
  • T+11:58: Dragon separation
  • T+12:46: Dragon nose cone open sequence begins

MISSION STATS:

  • 150th launch of a Falcon 9 rocket since 2010
  • 158th launch of Falcon rocket family since 2006
  • 4th launch of Falcon 9 booster B1067
  • 131st Falcon 9 launch from Florida’s Space Coast
  • 141st launch overall from pad 39A
  • 47th SpaceX launch overall from pad 39A
  • 93rd flight of a reused Falcon 9 booster
  • 7th SpaceX launch with humans on-board
  • 4th operational crew mission for NASA
  • 1st flight of Dragon Freedom spacecraft
  • 9th flight of a Crew Dragon spacecraft
  • 16th Falcon 9 launch of 2022
  • 16th launch by SpaceX in 2022
  • 16th orbital launch based out of Cape Canaveral in 2022

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Follow Stephen Clark on Twitter: @StephenClark1.

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