CAP CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) – SpaceX is gearing up for its third astronaut launch in less than a year, after getting the green light from NASA a week before the scheduled flight next Thursday.
NASA and Space Company officials Elon Musk cleared the Falcon rocket and Dragon capsule on Thursday for dawn takeoff with a crew of four bound for the International Space Station. They will spend six months in the orbiting lab, replacing another SpaceX crew that is about to return home.
The rocket and capsule were designed to be reused. The rocket was used to launch the station’s current crew last November from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. The capsule, dubbed Endeavor, will also do a repeat; it carried two test pilots to the space station on SpaceX’s first crew flight last spring.
SpaceX has revamped both and added security upgrades. Most of the capsule is already “flight proven,” company officials noted, with the exception of a few new valves, heat shields and parachutes.
Three of the astronauts are back for their second space station mission: Shane Kimbrough from NASA, Thomas Pesquet from the French and Akihiko Hoshide from Japan. NASA astronaut Megan McArthur was part of the last Hubble Space Telescope repair crew in 2009.
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