NASA, SpaceX has launched Crew-8 mission to ISS

by Tyler Gray

For the second time in 2024, a collection of four humans is flying on a SpaceX rocket and capsule to the International Space Station (ISS). The crew of the Crew-8 mission launched successfully atop a Falcon 9 and Dragon Endeavour from the historic Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center on Sunday, March 3 at 10:53 PM EST (03:53 UTC Monday, March 4).

Upon their arrival at the ISS, the crew will begin their approximately six-month stay whilst taking over duties from the Crew-7 astronauts, who will make their return to Earth aboard the Dragon Endurance spacecraft no earlier than March 9 following the handover period.

The crew complement for the latest Commercial Crew mission consists of three astronauts from NASA and a single cosmonaut representing the Russian space agency Roscosmos. Much like the Crew-3, Crew-5, and Crew-6 missions, three of the four fliers are first-timers with no previous spaceflight experience.

Crew-8 will be commanded by astronaut Matthew Dominick, 42, of Wheat Ridge, Colorado. Dominick was a U.S. Navy test pilot prior to his selection to NASA as part of the Group 22 astronaut class of 2017.

Having graduated from the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School, Dominick also holds science degrees in electrical and systems engineering from the University of San Diego and the Naval Postgraduate School, respectively. As a Navy test pilot, he logged over 1,600 hours of flight time in 28 different aircraft models, with 400 carrier-arrested landings and 61 combat missions also under his belt.

Dominick was serving at sea aboard the USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier at the time of his NASA astronaut selection. He completed two years of training as an astronaut candidate, getting assigned to the Crew-8 mission soon afterward. This is Dominick’s first spaceflight.

Fellow NASA astronaut Dr. Michael Barratt, 64, will pilot Dragon Endeavour during the Crew-8 flight. A native of Camas, Washington, he was selected to join NASA as an astronaut in 2000 after serving as a flight surgeon for the joint Shuttle-Mir program and medical operations lead for the ISS.

Of Endeavour’s crew, Barratt is the only member with spaceflight experience, having flown on two prior missions: Soyuz TMA-14 in March of 2009 as an Expedition 19/20 Flight Engineer, and STS-133 — the 39th and final mission for NASA’s Space Shuttle Discovery.

So far, Barratt has spent a total of 212 days in space and conducted two spacewalks. With his launch on Crew-8, Barratt will join a short list of astronauts who have flown on three different spacecraft (Soyuz, Shuttle, Dragon).

NASA astronaut Jeanette Epps, 53, of Syracuse, New York, is one of two mission specialists for Crew-8. She holds various degrees in science, physics, and aerospace engineering, having previous experience working in research at the Ford Motor Company and the Central Intelligence Agency as a technical intelligence officer.

NASA selected Epps as an astronaut in 2009, completing candidate training two years later and subsequently serving in the ISS Operations Branch working on issues in support of station crews. In 2017, NASA announced she would be assigned as a flight engineer for Expedition 56/57, but plans changed in 2018 when she was replaced by Serena Auñón Chancellor. The agency noted at the time that Epps would be “considered for assignment to future missions.”

In 2020, NASA announced that Epps would join the crew of Starliner-1, the first operational crew rotation mission for Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft. However, as the flight continually ran into delays, she began cross-training on the SpaceX Dragon, eventually leading to Epps’ reassignment to the Crew-8 mission in 2023. This will mark her first spaceflight.

Roscosmos cosmonaut Alexander Grebenkin, 41, of Myski, Russia, is the youngest Crew-8 passenger and the second of the two mission specialists. He will fly as part of a seat barter agreement between NASA and Roscosmos, in which Russian cosmonauts get guaranteed flights on American crew vehicles in exchange for NASA seats on Soyuz spacecraft.

Grebenkin was selected by Roscosmos in 2018 as a member of the 17th Cosmonaut Group, later being appointed as flight engineer for Expedition 70/71. Crew-8 will be his first spaceflight.

Crew-8 will also mark a record fifth mission for the Dragon Endeavour spacecraft, having started its flight career with the historic Demo-2 mission that ended the nine-year gap in U.S. human spaceflight capabilities. Since then, Endeavour has also flown the Crew-2, Axiom Mission 1, and Crew-6 missions to the ISS.

Endeavour — officially designated as C206 — is one of four vehicles in the Crew Dragon fleet, along with Resilience (C207), Endurance (C210), and Freedom (C212). With 466 days of total flight time under its belt, Endeavour holds the distinction of being the fleet leader.

Crew-8 will see the debut of a fresh Falcon 9 booster, with B1083 joining the ranks. After stage separation, the first stage conducted a boostback burn toward Florida’s Cape Canaveral Space Force Station for a successful return to launch site landing at SpaceX’s Landing Zone 1.

While B1083 landed safely, Falcon 9’s second stage pushed Dragon Endeavour with the Crew-8 astronauts to orbit. Spacecraft separation occurred at approximately 11 minutes 55 seconds after liftoff.

From this point, Dragon will perform a series of phasing burns using its Draco reaction control thrusters to close in on the International Space Station, eventually culminating in arrival and docking to the forward port of the Harmony module. Current docking time is Tuesday, March 5 at 3:00 AM EST (08:00 UTC).

Crew-8 was originally scheduled to launch from historic LC-39A on Feb. 22, but was ultimately delayed to February 28 and then March 2 to make room for the Intuitive Machines IM-1 lunar mission, which launched from the same pad on Feb. 15. The latest delay is due to ascent corridor weather, but the outlook is better for tomorrow.

When Dragon Endeavour reaches space, a total of 14 humans will be living and working in low Earth orbit. This includes the four Crew-8 astronauts, seven crew members on the ISS from the Crew-7 and Soyuz MS-24 missions, and three Chinese taikonauts taking residence in the Tiangong Space Station.

Crew-8 marks the 42nd orbital launch of 2024 and the 20th launch of a SpaceX rocket so far this year. It is also the second crewed orbital mission to launch in 2024, with the first being the Axiom Mission 3 private spaceflight launched from LC-39A on Jan. 18.

(Lead image: Crew-8 launch from LC-39A at the Kennedy Space Center on March 3. Credit: Julia Bergeron for NSF)

Dragon Endeavour Merch!

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