SpaceX Crew Preps for Launch as Japanese Cargo Heads to Station

The crew of the SpaceX Demo-2 mission NASA astronauts (from left) Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken.
The crew of the SpaceX Demo-2 mission: NASA astronauts (from left) Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken.

The International Space Station will welcome a pair of different spaceships next week. Japan’s space freighter will arrive first on Monday followed by the first crewed mission from SpaceX on Thursday.

The H-II Transfer Vehicle-9 (HTV-9) is in space racing toward the orbiting lab following its launch from Japan on Wednesday. The HTV-9, nicknamed Kounotori, or “white stork”, will arrive at the station Monday packed with over four tons of crew supplies, space experiments and new lithium-ion batteries to upgrade station power systems.

Commander Chris Cassidy will be on deck Monday in the cupola to command the Canadarm2 robotic arm to capture the Kounotori at 8:15 a.m. EDT. Roscosmos Flight Engineer Ivan Vagner will back up Cassidy and monitor the approach and rendezvous of the HTV-9. The duo has been training for a couple of weeks on a computer to get ready for Kounotori’s arrival. NASA TV’s live coverage of the robotic capture and installation will begin at 6:45 a.m. Monday.

The Expedition 63 crew is also preparing to welcome two NASA astronauts next week after they dock to the station inside the SpaceX Crew Dragon vehicle. The first Commercial Crew with Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken arrived in Florida Wednesday and is in final preparations for launch on May 27 at 4:33 p.m. from Kennedy Space Center. They will dock the following day at 11:39 a.m. to the Harmony module’s forward-facing International Docking Adapter.

Cassidy has been familiarizing himself this week with the Crew Dragon’s automated rendezvous and docking procedures. He set up a command and control device that will relay communications and telemetry back and forth with the Crew Dragon as it nears the space station next week.

Veteran Russian Flight Engineer Anatoly Ivanishin has been keeping up with his lab maintenance tasks while his crewmates get ready for the Kounotori’s arrival. The three-time station resident serviced computers and life support gear and updated station inventory systems today.