The SpaceX Crew Dragon currently docked to the International Space Station has been successfully moved to another port in a first for this spacecraft model. The Crew Dragon has been named “Resilience” by its crew, known in official NASA and SpaceX documentation as Crew-1.
Moving Resilience makes room for the next Crew Dragon to fly to the International Space Station. Crew-2 is scheduled to launch on April 22. Resilience will return to Earth five days after the arrival of Crew-2. While both Crew Dragons are docked to the space station, there will be a total of 11 astronauts on the International Space Station.
SpaceX is the first private company to fly a spacecraft under contract for NASA’s Commercial Crew program, which helps to break the Russian monopoly on crewed space launches. There have been times when NASA’s access to the International Space Station has been threatened by tensions between Russia and the United States.
Resilience successfully launched on November 15 in the first operational flight of the Crew Dragon under a NASA contract to send crews to the International Space Station from American soil. Since the retirement of the Space Shuttle in 2011, NASA had relied on the Russian Soyuz to access the space station. This came with the risk that access could be cut off altogether due to ongoing poor relations between the two countries.
During the 2014 imposition of sanctions, Russian deputy prime minister Dmitry Rogozin tweeted, “After analyzing the sanctions against our space industry, I suggest to the USA to bring their astronauts to the International Space Station using a trampoline.”
At the time, Elon Musk had this to say about it:
Ongoing tensions between the two countries has included the accusation that Russia interfered with the 2016 presidential election in the United States.
Regular launches of the Crew Dragon will help to ensure access to crewed assets like the International Space Station and the planned Lunar Gateway station even if America’s access to the Russian Soyuz is cut off due to potentially worsening relations. SpaceX also has a contract to launch the first components of the Lunar Gateway.
Blue Origin and the United Launch Alliance are also developing spacecraft in the hope of scoring future NASA contracts and further reduce NASA’s reliance on Russian launch capability. Blue Origin is especially focused on developing hardware for NASA’s plan to return to the Moon. The United Launch Alliance is developing the Atlas V Starliner with an eye toward launching NASA astronauts Mike Fincke, Nicole Mann, and Barry “Butch” Wilmore on its first test flight for the Commercial Crew Program.
However, SpaceX is the first to launch actual crews for Commercial Crew and will be the first to have two crew-rated spacecraft docked to the International Space Station at the same time. The move of the Crew Dragon Resilience is part of the preparations for this milestone. SpaceX also plans to launch an uncrewed Cargo Dragon to the International Space Station after the departure of Resilience.