SpaceX has launched the Crew-7 mission to the International Space Station on Saturday, August 26, at 3:27 am EDT. The crew includes astronauts Jasmin Moghbeli (NASA), Andreas Mogensen from Denmark (European Space Agency), Satoshi Furukawa (JAXA), and Russian cosmonaut Konstantin Borisov. Crew-7 will replace Crew-6 on the space station after a brief handover period.
The launch was originally scheduled for August 25, but was delayed by about a day to allow engineers and technicians more time to inspect the life support system and environmental controls on the Crew Dragon. Valves on the Dragon had been a concern due to several recent in-flight malfunctions. Before today’s launch, technicians inspected a potential propellant leak and cleared it as too minor to be a concern.
This flight notably marks the second time that crew members from four different nations launched on the same mission from U.S. soil. The first time was a 2001 Space Shuttle mission in support of the International Space Station.
Crew-7 commander Jasmin Moghbeli is the daughter of Iranian immigrants who became a test pilot in the US Marine Corps. NASA selected her as an astronaut in 2017. Her parents fled the Iranian Revolution in 1979. Now she hopes her mission will inspire young Iranians.
She told the press, “Something I didn’t recognize is it’s really important for kids to see someone they connect to in some way, whether that’s Iranian girls or Iranian children looking up to me because I’m also Iranian and realizing they, too, can do this.”
Cosmonaut Konstantin Borisov praised NASA’s professionalism even in the face of poor Russia-U.S. relations due to the ongoing invasion of Ukraine: “It has been both very relaxed and very professional. I want to point out that it’s really important that we continue that relationship.”
Mogensen is an aerospace engineer and former oil rig engineer who was selected by ESA in 2009. He previously served a 10-day mission on the space station in 2009. WIth this mission, Mogensen becomes the first international astronaut to serve as pilot on a U.S.-built spacecraft launched from American soil.
Having previously flown on the Soyuz, Mogensen was quick to note differences that include more advanced ground support for the Crew Dragon. The support includes better radio contact with the ground and digital systems that can be used to send commands and telemetry back and forth between the Crew Dragon and SpaceX’s mission control center in Hawthorne, California. This ground support has previously been used to troubleshoot issues on a Crew Dragon in flight that included a finicky waste disposal system on the Inspiration4 mission.
“Soyuz and Dragon are two very, very different spacecraft, principally because one, Soyuz, was developed in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, and Dragon was developed in the last 10 years,” Mogensen said. “Soyuz has, in the past, at least, relied on ground stations for radio communication, which means that for maybe half of the flight, the astronauts on-board Soyuz have to be … able to work independently, which means that any problems that arise during flight, they have to be able to solve on their own. So it requires an incredibly intricate knowledge of all the systems on-board Soyuz.”
(Don’t feel bad, NASA. The Gemini 8 crew did a great job of recovering from a bad spin even though they had to do some of the troubleshooting without any contact with mission control. Now NASA’s radio coverage has been better developed.)
Satoshi Furukawa is a former surgeon with a previous 159-day mission on the ISS.
Crew-7 is expected to spend the next several months conducting valuable experiments and maintenance on the International Space Station. Experiments will include collection of microbial samples from the space station exterior, a sleep study, and more studies on the effects of long-duration spaceflight on crew members’ health. The Axiom-3 mission and a Soyuz carrying three more crew members are expected to arrive during their stay. A Russian Progress and a SpaceX Cargo Dragon will also deliver cargo while Crew-7 is aboard the ISS.
Crew-7 also marks the first flight for SpaceX’s newest reusable first stage booster. SpaceX uses the Falcon 9 for Crew Dragon launches. This marks the eighth Commercial Crew mission for SpaceX (the first was a crewed spaceflight called Demo-2) and SpaceX’s tenth crewed mission overall.